THE Arts minister has spoken of how impressed he was at how County Durham's bid for the title of City of Culture 2025 had galvanised the community and brought people together.

Lord Stephen Parkinson of Whitley Bay was speaking at the end of a whistlestop tour ahead of the visit for of the judging panel on Monday. 

He said: “This a really clear example of how it has brought people together. 

“It has shown the enthusiasm there is right across the county from a range of organisations, businesses, community groups, the cathedral and the university.

"Old and new big and small, everyone is getting behind and backing the bid and that really stood out."

During the day Lord Parkinson had lunch with the Dean at Durham Cathedral, met representatives of Durham University and Durham County Council, as well as business leaders and MPs.

He said: “There is really strong partnership working here. I’m speaking from Locomotion in Shildon.

“It’s organisations like these and Beamish and Durham Cathedral – well known and established – who are really putting their arms around smaller and newer organisations to help give them the benefit of their expertise.

“They are making sure people are discovering everything the county has got to offer not just things they might have heard of already."

Lord Parkinson said there had been a record number of entrants for the 2025 City of Culture title and the adding to get to the final four all of the bidders "you have had to have really good partnership working"

He said: "You get a real sense of the energy and excitement here and of how it has galvanised people from lots of different sectors to come together with a really strong bid.

"In County Durham you are talking heritage - whether its mining or railway heritage or whether it’s going back all the way to St Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede .

"There is a fantastic history here in the North East, but it’s how you use that to inspire new generations.

"We were talking about Bede over lunch – he was not only a historian, but also an astronomer and scientist. It's really important you are inspiring people not just in the arts and culture, but to think about creativity, which is such an important skill whatever field (young people) might want to go into the future.

"It's really using the richness of the heritage to inspire future generations."

Asked what judges were looking for, he said: "All of the bids are different because they reflect the communities that are bidding.

"But they are all about bringing people together, giving people a real sense of pride and place and confidence - cementing a real legacy.

"Its not just about the year of the City of Culture, it’s about the legacy that it leaves and we’ve seen that from previous winners like Hull.

"Others who have not got the ultimate prize have carried on their cultural programme. The legacy work is really important.

"That’s especially the case as we are emerging from the pandemic. We want people to get back out there – to support local businesses.

"There is a real yearning for culture and creativity. We are all so much more connected with what’s on our doorstep because we have had to say at home or close by.

"It’s about helping people discover the culture that’s on their doorstep, they haven’t engaged with before and the confidence to try something new.

"And its about giving places the opportunity to show that off. Not just around the country but around the world."

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