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Rock legend Rick Wakeman backs city culture bid

PUBLISHED: 12:00 11 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:12 01 July 2010

Rick Wakeman at Norwich Cathedral in 2007 before his December performance there.

Rick Wakeman at Norwich Cathedral in 2007 before his December performance there.

Mary Hamilton

Rock keyboard legend Rick Wakeman has voiced his support for Norwich's bid to be the UK's first City of Culture in 2013, saying it should be a "benchmark city" for others to learn from.

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Official Norwich 2013 bid website

Rock keyboard legend Rick Wakeman has voiced his support for Norwich's bid to be the UK's first City of Culture in 2013, saying it should be a “benchmark city” for others to learn from.

The former Yes keyboard player, who lives near Diss, said he would still support Norwich's bid even if he lived elsewhere because it was his favourite city anywhere in the world.

Mr Wakeman said: “I think if Norwich wins it - and I really hope we do win it - it will open lots of people's eyes to what we have here.

“Even if I didn't live round here I would still hope Norwich won.

“There would be a huge surge of people coming to the city. Lots of people at the moment aren't going abroad because of various problems, so they are looking to explore the UK and I'm 100pc sure that anyone who came to Norwich once would want to come here again.

“I only live 19 miles away from Norwich, and I've lived very close for just over five years now.

“When I moved here with my fiancee Rachel we went into the city an awful lot - at least a couple of times a week - but we never realised how much there was to the city until we started exploring.

“Both of us say it's far and away our favourite city anywhere - and I think we've been pretty much everywhere.

“Norwich really does have everything. It has new areas like the Riverside and the university, but I love the way Norwich has kept the old part of the city and not stuck up new buildings all over the place.

“The city has everything from big modern shopping malls to proper old-fashioned shopping streets.

“There are not many cities anywhere in the country where you can be right in the city centre somewhere like the Forum, walk 100 yards and be in a beautiful park.

“In many respects Norwich should be a benchmark for what other cities can do.

“Architecturally, in particular, too many places go and spoil everything by putting up a load of new buildings next to a beautiful old Georgian house or something like that.

“But in Norwich you'll see some places where the insides are completely modern and renovated and they have kept the beautiful old facade, which is part of the city's charm.

“I'm a bit of a history nut and it's fascinating looking at the way the city has developed over the last fifty years. It really has been well thought out.

“I think for people outside East Anglia, or even outside Norfolk, coming to the city is an eye opener. There is just so much here.”

The keyboard player, who has played on tracks by David Bowie, Ozzy Osbourne and Elton John as well as pursuing a successful solo career, is also popular for his appearances on Have I Got News For You and Grumpy Old Men.

His support for the City of Culture bid, which sees Norwich going head to head with Birmingham, Sheffield and Derry/Londonderry for the first UK title, comes in the wake of a string of high-profile supporters who have backed Norwich for the title, including Simon Callow, Christopher Biggins and Miranda Raison.

The bid has now gone before the judges, and the team will make a final presentation and answer questions on June 16.

The winner is expected to be announced in July.

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Official Norwich 2013 bid website

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