A bid to host Eurovision in 2023 showed ambition in championing the north, a council leader has said.

Jonathan Dulston, leader of Darlington Borough Council, said the town had a "credible bid" for welcoming 26 countries in the competition, although it did not make the shortlist.

The bid was put together by the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority and Darlington Borough Council on behalf of the region and key partners to hold the contest at Darlington Arena.

Read more: Eurovision 2023 - Darlington misses out on hosting after shortlist announced

Cllr Dulston said: "We didn't initially go for it.

"I think we were having some discussions privately and we decided, do you know what? We will go for it, we'll get it to a credible position.

"We annouced it late on that we were joining the party.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Jonathan Dulston, leader of Darlington Borough Council. Picture: Sarah Caldecott.Cllr Jonathan Dulston, leader of Darlington Borough Council. Picture: Sarah Caldecott. (Image: SARAH CALDECOTT)

"I think it's one of those things that demonstrates that Darlington is absolutely ambitious. We continue to punch well above our weight.

"Out of the 20 submissions all of the others were cities. Darlington is the only town, with Darlington's name on ministerial desks. That can only be a good thing in terms of continuing to champion the north.

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"I had some mixed reactions on Facebook and people were saying, 'Why Darlington?'

"My answer here is simply, 'Why not?' We've got a credible story, we've got a fantastic Tees Valley region, we've got some great infrastructure.

"Why wouldn't Darlington put its hat in the ring and present a credible bid for them to consider?

"I'm really delighted that we've gone through the process and deomstrated to the people that we absolutely are champions of the town and the region."

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He said the cost of the bid was zero: "Tees Valley Combined Authority were people who led the bid. They did all the work in pulling it together.

"It was done in-house by a team of skilled people who've come together alongside their day jobs. It's cost nothing because they've already got staff working on various products who have been able to get this bid off the ground."

Following the announcement this morning, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said the loss was unfortunate, adding: “You win some and you lose some but that’s life.

“So it wasn't to be. Unfortunately we didn’t get shortlisted to host Eurovision in Darlington.

“As I always say, you’ve got to be in it to win it and given our bid cost a grand total of £0 we have made it clear that Teesside, Darlington, and Hartlepool stands ready to host global events.

The Northern Echo: Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen. Picture: Sarah Caldecott.Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen. Picture: Sarah Caldecott. (Image: Sarah Caldecott, Newsquest)

“This won't be the last time we step up when called upon, and now we look forward to hosting another global event in the Rugby League World Cup later this year at the Riverside.

“The progress we are making and the positive noises we are creating are paying dividends. Five years ago we wouldn’t have even thought about bidding, but our area is on the up and opportunities like this will come round again.”

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