Congratulations to all at Bradford Metropolitan District Council and the partner organisations that came together on the successful bid to be the UK’s City of Culture in 2025. Announced last week, the award is definitely a cause for celebration for the council and the population of the UK’s youngest city.
Established in 2009 the UK City of Culture designation emulates and builds on the successful European Capital of Culture programme. Bradford is the fourth city to be awarded the status following Derry-Londonderry in 2013, Hull in 2017 and Coventry in 2021. Along with Liverpool, which was European Capital of Culture in 2008, all the cities have enjoyed a host of economic, social and cultural benefits since being City of Culture and their councils have been at the forefront of delivering those positive outcomes.
While it’s too early to evaluate all of the successes in Coventry, which faced the unwelcome challenge of navigating a pandemic and accompanying restrictions, the ongoing benefits to Derry-Londonderry, Hull and Liverpool are well documented. All three experienced significant uplifts in visitor numbers and a boost to the tourism sector that has been sustained ever since. All saw an increase in tourism and culture jobs with Hull experiencing an uplift of 800 jobs in one year.
Increased cultural activity is known to be a driver of regeneration and collectively the winning cities have enjoyed billions of pounds of public and private investment resulting in the construction and development of schemes such as Liverpool One, the Arena Convention Centre, the Museum of Liverpool, the Guildhall in Derry, Ebrington Square, the Peace Bridge and important public realm schemes.
Evaluation of the programmes also found evidence of societal benefits such as residents feeling more involved in their communities and generating more pride in their places. While the city of culture designation and associated funding are huge boosts, investment in culture reaps these rewards wherever it occurs. That’s why local authorities the length and breadth of the country invest in culture.
Research by the LGA confirms that “councils are the biggest public funders of culture, spending over £1 billion a year in England alone. This includes 3,000 libraries, 350 museums, 116 theatres, and numerous castles, amusement parks, monuments, historic buildings and heritage sites (LGA website).” The LGA’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board has established a commission on culture and local government, chaired by Baroness Lola Young to investigate the role that culture can play in the post-pandemic recovery. It will report its findings in December.
Over the next two years the partner bodies in Bradford, working with the council and using the city’s ten-year cultural plan as a basis for action, will prepare for their year as City of Culture. This promises to be as exciting for Bradford as it has been for the other host cities. Here’s looking forward to 2025 and another great year for the cultural achievements led by local government.
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