With the 2025 UK City of Culture set to be announced, these are the cultural highlights of the four finalists: Bradford, County Durham, Southampton and Wrexham.

Bradford

Lister's Mill

The Northern Echo: Photo via T&A Camera Club members Rais Hasan (left) and Dave Zdanowicz (right). Left image shows the Lister Mills' chimney lit up for a light show in March and the right image shows the mill’s chimneys against a calming, cloudy backdrop of the district.Photo via T&A Camera Club members Rais Hasan (left) and Dave Zdanowicz (right). Left image shows the Lister Mills' chimney lit up for a light show in March and the right image shows the mill’s chimneys against a calming, cloudy backdrop of the district.

Once the world’s largest silk factory, the mighty Lister's Mill in Manningham dominates the Bradford skyline.

Designed by architect Samuel Lister, the mill was originally built in 1838 and became part of the city’s internationally renowned, rich textile history.

At its height, the mill employed over 11,000 people who created quality textiles such as velvet and silk. During the Second World War Lister's Mill also produced real parachute silk, flame-proof wool, khaki battledress and parachute cord.

While the building is no longer a mill, the historic building now has Grade II* listed status as well as luxury rooftop penthouses and commercial units. The Italianate chimney was recently illuminated for a three day light show called The Mills Are Alive in Manningham, telling stories of the area from past and present.

The light show focused on some of Bradford's history, including the Manningham Mills Strike of 1890, the birth of the Independent Labour Party and arts events; including Bradford Festival and Mela, which attracted more than 200,000 people in its heyday.

 

Salts Mill, Saltaire

The Northern Echo: Photo by John Shackleton shows the iconic Salts Mill from Robert’s Park, Saltaire.Photo by John Shackleton shows the iconic Salts Mill from Robert’s Park, Saltaire.

Famous philanthropist and businessman Sir Titus Salt not only built the textile mill, known as Salts Mill, but an entire village on the River Aire. Featuring beautiful Italianate architecture and history on every corner, Saltaire Village was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001.

While it is no longer a textile factory, Salts Mill has been transformed into an art museum showcasing artwork by Bradford’s own David Hockney, shops, restaurants and cafes.

Salts Mill was recently used as a backdrop for a series of ballet films by the Northern Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, inspired by choreography from students living in West Yorkshire and New York City.

Salts Mill also took centre stage in the textile world once again with a new exhibition revealing the future of fashion.

The Fashion Factory's exhibition saw more than 100 guests from across the fashion and textile industry learn about new materials created using technology.

Bradford Live

The Northern Echo: Artist's impression of the completed Bradford Live venue. City of Culture judges visited the site to see work in progress.Artist's impression of the completed Bradford Live venue. City of Culture judges visited the site to see work in progress.

Bradford’s former Odeon cinema is being regenerated and transformed into a top live entertainment venue.

Bradford Live is set to offer one of the country's best live entertainment venues when it opens its doors in late 2022, according to the team behind the project.

Construction work is well under way on-site with teams of builders working to get the venue ready.

After the Odeon closed in 2000 the building fell into disrepair and was added to the Theatres at Risk register in 2008. In 2014 Bradford Council approved a plan for a live music venue.

Haworth

The Northern Echo: Left photo shows Haworth’s iconic highstreet (Christxan Jaemes Photography) and the right photo shows the annual Haworth Steampunk Weekend.Left photo shows Haworth’s iconic highstreet (Christxan Jaemes Photography) and the right photo shows the annual Haworth Steampunk Weekend.

Haworth is famous for its connections to the Brontë sisters, but it is just a small part of the scenic village’s offering.

You can visit the Brontë Parsonage, where the creative family lived from 1820, now a beautifully preserved museum.

Haworth is surrounded by dramatic moorland and home to an iconic high street full of independent businesses and Keighley Worth Valley Railway.

In 2014, the Tour de France’s route passed through Haworth and saw hundreds of competing cyclists race up the steep cobbled hill.

The Haworth Steampunk Weekend also takes place every year – the perfect Gothic backdrop to people’s unique, science fiction inspired outfits.

Haworth is often used as a film set for TV series and films – including Wild Child, Gentlemen Jack, The Railway Children – both the original and its new sequel and To Walk Invisible.

City Park and Centenary Square

The Northern Echo: A stunning image of Bradford's City Park during the Bradford is #LiT project.A stunning image of Bradford's City Park during the Bradford is #LiT project.

Found in Bradford city centre, this is where you can discover the prestigious 19th Century city hall, Bradford City Hall, and Mirror Pool - the largest urban water feature in the UK.

The hall has been used in several pieces of TV and film over the years – most recently for The Duke,  Official Secrets, National Treasure, Peaky Blinders, Victoria and Testament of Youth.

The square was also used for the Bradford is #LIT project – a major event which saw the sky glow bright in a series of awe-inspiring light shows.

One of the light shows was inspired by the Northern Lights, creating an incredible display in the night sky.

 

County Durham

The Riverside, Chester-le-Street

The Northern Echo: England take on New Zealand in the stunning environs of The Riverside in the 2019 Cricket World Cup.England take on New Zealand in the stunning environs of The Riverside in the 2019 Cricket World Cup.

The home of Durham County Cricket Club is one of the more recent venues in cricket, hosting its first match in 1995. But it must also be one of the most scenic the sport has to offer, overlooked by Lumley Castle, and this stunning facility hosted three matches at the 2019 Cricket World Cup.

Lumiere Durham

 

A spectacular festival of light and art, Lumiere began in Durham in 2009 and has since expanded to other cities, with offshoots in London and in Derry/Londonderry (during the Northern Irish city's stint as UK City of Culture). The festival mixes interactive installations for all the family with challenging, cutting-edge original art commissions.

Durham Cathedral

The Northern Echo: Durham Cathedral dominates the surrounding landscape.Durham Cathedral dominates the surrounding landscape.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most spectacular cathedrals in the world, work on Durham Cathedral began in the 11th century CE to serve as the resting place for Saint Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede. It has remained at the heart of Christian culture in the North East ever since.

Kynren, Bishop Auckland

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A historical extravaganza of a live show, Kynren - subtitled 'An Epic Tale of England' - features reenactments of historical battles from Boudicca to World War II via Vikings, Tudors, Stuarts, Queen Victoria and the Industrial Revolution, all played out in an 8,000 seat outdoor arena.

Lumley Castle

The Northern Echo: Lumley Castle in its current incarnation as a four-star luxury hotel.Lumley Castle in its current incarnation as a four-star luxury hotel.

These days a four-star hotel, the Grade I listed Lumley Castle dates back over 600 years and is named after the man who commissioned it, Sir Ralph Lumley. In its time it has also served as the residence of the Bishop of Durham and as a hall of residence for the University of Durham.

Southampton

God’s House Tower

The Northern Echo: God's House TowerGod's House Tower

Many Southampton residents associate this historical building with primary school field trips and queuing in the car for the Red Funnel ferry, but do you know what currently lies beyond God’s House Tower’s (GHT) doors?

READ NEXT: Inside God's House Tower: What the historical building offers now

The oldest part of the building, originally known as God’s House Gate, was built in 1189 and named due to its proximity to the nearby God’s House Hospital.

The original gate was built to give access to the Platform Quay and was used to guard the town from attack by sea.

In the 1960s the building was converted into the city’s archaeology museum.

It was closed in 2011 and in 2019, after a four-year restoration project, GHT reopened as an arts and heritage venue.

The venue now delivers a variety of projects and events, from short creative wellbeing courses to art and history exhibitions.

The cafe also offers tasty vegan treats. 

To find out more, visit https://godshousetower.org.uk/

Southampton City Art Gallery

The Northern Echo: Outside Southampton City Art GalleryOutside Southampton City Art Gallery

The gallery, based in the city’s Cultural Quarter, opened in 1939.

It’s a popular venue for art-lovers, along with those who enjoy the atmosphere of a gallery.

Southampton City Art Gallery offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy high quality exhibitions ranging from painting, sculpture, and drawing to photography and film, as well as permanent collection and displays that change regularly.

The gallery is free to enter, and more information can be found on the gallery’s website https://www.southamptoncityartgallery.com/whats-on/

Tudor House and Garden 

The Northern Echo: Tudor House in Southampton Tudor House in Southampton

Tudor House and Garden is a historic building, museum, and tourist attraction in Bugle Street, Southampton. 

Established as the city's first museum in 1912, the house was closed for nine years between 2002 and 2011 during an extensive renovation.

READ MORE: Weston Park pupils throw support behind UK City of Culture 2025 bid

The building also boasts a beautiful garden and a café that serves delicious refreshments, including cake.

The house can be found opposite St. Michael's Square in Southampton's Old Town.

Visitor information can be found here https://tudorhouseandgarden.com/

The Art House

The Northern Echo:  The Art House The Art House

A gem in the city centre, The Art House is a performance venue and social centre.

The not-for-profit venue in Above Bar street offers live music, performance poetry, storytelling and comedy as well as workshops and classes, drop-in community cafe events, a regular community pantry and a meeting space for groups.

Visiting The Art House has been described as “dropping into a good friend’s (slightly quirky) house” and is a safe and comfortable space for everyone.

Further information about The Art House can be found here https://thearthousesouthampton.org/ along with event details.

Mayflower Theatre 

The Northern Echo: Mayflower TheatreMayflower Theatre

Last but not least, we have the Mayflower Theatre.

Located in Commercial Road, the theatre opened as The Mayflower on 24 February 1987.

It was previously known as the Gaumont Theatre and originally The Empire Theatre.

Every year the theatre hosts a variety of plays, pantos, musicals, and operas, to name a few.

Upcoming shows include Cluedo and Waitress, which are both landing on stage this month.

Aside from hosting spectacular shows, the theatre also offers various programmes, from Mayflower Youth Theatre, Mayflower Junior Youth Theatre and Mayflower Young Writers and Mayflower Junior Writers.

 

Wrexham

The Racecourse Ground

The Northern Echo:

Let's start with what is perhaps the most standout venue of all within Wrexham, the Racecourse is the oldest international football ground in the world and home to National league promotion-chasers Wrexham AFC.

Let's face it - if it's good enough for Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney then it's good enough for anyone! 

This season attendances at the ground have skyrocketed with the Reds hot on the heels of a return to the English Football League. Alas they missed out by the odd goal in 9 in an entralling 4-5 defeat to Grimsby Town in the play-off semi-final - the Wrexham bid team will be hoping this isn't an omen.

 

FOCUS Wales

The Northern Echo:

There really is something for everyone in Wrexham - including music lovers!

Focus Wales is the country's biggest music industry event, with three days of panels, keynote talks, and industry advice.

The festival, held annually, sees thousands of visitors and over 400 music industry professionals descend upon Wrexham from around the world.

This year's festival is expected to attract over 15,000 people to the North Wales town.

 

Erddig Hall

The Northern Echo:

If you're looking for something a little quieter, then Wrexham can offer you just that too.

Erddig Hall is a National Trust property which dates back to the 17th century.

The venue has been described as 'the most evocative Upstairs Downstairs house in Britain' due to the well-rounded view it presents of the lifestyles of all of its occupants, both family and staff.

The state rooms contain fine furniture, textiles and wallpapers and the fully restored walled garden is one of the most important surviving 18th century gardens in Britain.

 

St Giles Church

The Northern Echo:

If it's a bit of religious history you're after during your visit to Wrexham then look no further than one of the 'Seven Wonders of Wales'.

St Giles' Parish Church is recognised as one of the finest examples of ecclesiastical architecture in Wales and its iconic 16th century tower rises to a height of 136 feet - a local landmark that can be seen for many miles.

The church occupies a site of continuous Christian worship for at least 800 years and is also the burial place of British-American Philanthropist Elihu Yale.

 

Pontycyllte Aqueduct

The Northern Echo:

We've saved the most picturesque of the Wrexham venues for last on the list.

The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is a navigable aqueduct that carries the Llangollen Canal across the River Dee in the Vale of Llangollen in northeast Wales.

The 18-arched stone and cast iron structure is for use by narrowboats and was completed in 1805 having taken ten years to design and build.

It is 12 ft (3.7 metres) wide and is the longest aqueduct in Great Britain and the highest canal aqueduct in the world. A footpath runs alongside the watercourse on one side.

The structure is so iconic that it is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.