With just a month to go until County Durham finds out if it will be the next UK City of Culture, Durham 2025 bid director Alison Clark emphasises the transformational impact the title would have on the entire region.

To say the weeks ahead are important for County Durham is putting it mildly. By the end of May, we will know whether our countywide bid for UK City of Culture 2025 has made it over the finishing line. Securing this title would unlock a wealth of opportunities for our communities, turbo charge our cultural and economic ambitions and fix an international spotlight firmly on the North East.

It would attract more than 15 million visitors, inject hundreds of millions of pounds into our economy and create and safeguard thousands of jobs.

And it would place the extraordinary people and places that makes County Durham so special at the heart of an inclusive and pioneering cultural programme with an international legacy that extends far beyond 2025.

In short, becoming UK City of Culture 2025 would be a game changer for County Durham and the North East.

On Monday 9 May, we will welcome the judging panel to the county. This is not only an opportunity for us to demonstrate our amazing cultural offer, but to share our ideas and ambitions and show why the title is deserved and needed.

County Durham boasts spectacular landscapes, award-winning attractions and a rich heritage, including a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, it also faces many challenges. Our last coal mine closed a generation ago but many of our communities are still feeling the impact of the decline of traditional industries.

The average wage here is lower than anywhere else in the country and life expectancy for men and women is also below the England average.

Significant work is already underway to build a more prosperous future, including a multi-billion-pound regeneration programme bringing together public and private sector partners.

Levelling up is a phrase we hear a lot these days but ultimately it is another way of describing a system change, and there is no lever like City of Culture to reset the system here. Our geography covers 2000sq km of city, countryside and coast - and culture connects it all. 

It also connects people, and this has certainly been the case with the Durham 2025 campaign. Along with the thousands of people who have backed our bid, hundreds of residents, businesses and creative professionals have helped to shape it, working alongside Durham County Council, Durham University and Culture Durham, a partnership of more than 20 cultural organisations from across the county.

The collective time and energy invested into developing the bid has provided hard evidence that the cultural, economic and well-being changes that Durham needs to fulfil its huge untapped potential can be achieved or catalysed through UK City of Culture 2025. 

The title of our bid is ‘Into the Light: The past we inherit the future we build.’ This draws on the proud historic motto of the Durham Miners’ Association and places it at the heart of a cultural programme with international appeal. A programme that reframes a county of unequal opportunity as a place of collective energy and opportunities for all.

As we continue in this crucial final phase, it is more important than ever before that we join together as a county and a region to bring this title home to the North East.

Please continue to leave messages of support on our website at www.durham2025.co.uk/get-involved Businesses can also pledge their support at www.durham2025.co.uk/businesses-back-the-bid. More than 600 businesses have already done so, with sponsorship pledges now in excess of £500,000.

You can also promote Durham 2025 on social media by using the #Durham2025 hashtag when posting pictures of the county or sharing our social media posts. Don’t forget to follow us too. You can find us at www.facebook.com/durham2025, www.twitter.com/durham_2025 and www.instagram.com/durham2025  

Thank you so much for your support so far.