The race is on to find UK's first ‘City of Culture’ for 2013

14 July 2009

Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw launches national competition

A competition open to the whole of the UK to find the nation’s first ‘City of Culture’ was launched today by Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw.  The winning city will become a focus for national attention in 2013 and could host high-profile media events including the Turner Prize, BBC Sports Personality of the Year, The Brits and the RIBA Stirling Prize as part of their year in the spotlight.

Building on Liverpool’s success as European Capital of Culture in 2008 the successful city could expect to see economic and social benefits flow in, leaving a lasting legacy.  The initiative is being launched following a feasibility study by Phil Redmond.

And not just cities can apply.  Bids will also be welcome from closely linked urban areas, or cities with their surrounding areas.  The important thing is that there must be a clear central focus to the area.

Bidders will have until 16 October this year to submit an outline application, with a deadline of 11 December for initial bids.  Expert assessors will then look at bids received and an independent advisory panel will recommend a short list to be announced early in 2010. Finally, those bids that are short listed have until 28 May to submit their full and final bids. Once these have been assessed and a recommendation made by the independent advisory panel, the final winner will be announced by the Culture Secretary later that year.
Ben Bradshaw said:

“Culture is something that we are incredibly good at in the UK.  But excellence and innovation in the arts does not begin and end inside the M25 and I believe we have been too London-centric for too long in our cultural life.  So this competition aims to find a city or area outside London that has the wow factor, with exciting and credible plans to make a step change in its cultural life and engage the whole country.

“Liverpool’s success last year brought pride, confidence and real economic regeneration to the area.  Their triumphant year shows that the title of City of Culture will be a prize very much worth having, with a huge amount to play for.

“National cultural organisations and funding bodies are backing the plan and I am grateful to them for their support so far.  I also thank Phil Redmond for his work to make this exciting concept a reality.”

Phil Redmond added:

“Liverpool benefited tremendously in 2008, from simply having a badge of authority that allowed people to work collaboratively together to enhance and maximize every event throughout the city. It also acted as a focal point for every cultural economic and social agenda – including permission to enjoy themselves.  Culture is not an amorphous concept: it is at the heart of everything we do.  To bring about any step change you need to bring about cultural shift and that is where cultural practitioners can help by introducing new ideas and new ways of doing things.  Something we will all have to do looking to a rapidly changing digital world.”


Notes to Editors

  1. We expect bids to be from a partnership from the city or area.  This will need to include the relevant local authorities, with a lead organisation (normally a local authority) for the purposes of communication during the bidding process.  The definition of ‘city’ is intended to be flexible – what matters is the ability of the host to deliver a substantial programme of cultural activity in 2013, that can demonstrably lead to a step change in the area.  There must be a clear central focus to the area, although part of the programme can be delivered in a wider hinterland (as was the case in Liverpool, Capital of Culture 2008).  The location that is bidding should have a clear identity for visitors: a city and its hinterland, or a closely linked set of urban areas.

  2. The Government welcomes bids from all areas of the UK.  The only areas precluded from bidding (at least for 2013) are London as a whole or any part of London.  The Government wants the inaugural UK City of Culture to be outside London, not least as the capital will have celebrated the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games the year before.

  3. Bids will be assessed in terms of the ability of the proposed City of Culture programme to make a step change in that city. Culture will not be narrowly defined but bidding cities will be asked to spell out their own vision for City of Culture and how they will use that in making a step change. Bidders will need to demonstrate:

    •  A high quality cultural programme that reaches a wide variety of audiences, and is a fitting follow-on from Liverpool Capital of Culture and the Cultural Olympiad;
    • A programme that uses culture to lead to lasting social regeneration by engagement, widening participation and supporting cultural diversity;
    • A demonstrable and significant economic impact from the programme;
    • Credibility in their plans (including support from key partners) and track record in delivery; and
    • A clear approach to maximising legacy and being able to evaluate impact.

      However, detailed assessment criteria will be made available to all prospective bidders in early August. In addition, all bidders are invited to a seminar in Liverpool on 10 September where further guidance will be given and some of the key lessons from Liverpool 08 will be highlighted.

  4. It will be up to bidders to find the necessary resources for bidding from their existing budgets and those of partners. DCMS have engaged the support of Regeneris Consulting to act as expert assessors throughout the process. Regeneris will be providing support to all bidders on understanding and interpreting the bidding guidance. Any information passed on to a potential bidder will be made available to all bidders in due course.

  5. The winning city will be provided with the title of UK City of Culture for their year, and given rights to the UK City of Culture brand, with scope to tailor it to their own city if desired.

  6. Some key facts and statistics about Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture in 2008, supplied by the Liverpool Culture Company. PDF (150kb)

  7. Frequently Asked Questions and Expression of Interest form can be found on this website.

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