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Why Norwich must be City of Culture

PUBLISHED: 12:19 21 May 2010 | UPDATED: 16:41 01 July 2010

Steve Morphew, city council leader, and the rest of the City of Culture bid team on the steps of city hall.

Steve Morphew, city council leader, and the rest of the City of Culture bid team on the steps of city hall.

Mary Hamilton

Norwich has four weeks to prove we deserve to be the first UK City of Culture in 2013 after the final bid was submitted today.

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Official Norwich 2013 bid website

Norwich has four weeks to prove we deserve to be the first UK City of Culture in 2013 after the final bid was submitted today.

After months of work, hundreds of conversations and consultations, the document was submitted to the judges today - but the city still has time to show how strongly it supports the bid before the final presentation in June.

A year-long international arts festival which would involve every part of Norwich and bring an estimated £215m to the city could be held if we are successful. The title could bring prestigious events from the Brits to the Turner Prize to Norfolk and attract thousands of new visitors to the region, boosting local businesses and putting Norwich in the national and international limelight.

Norwich's place on the final shortlist with Birmingham, Sheffield and Derry/Londonderry was announced in late February, and since then all four cities have been developing their proposals for 2013 and gathering support.

The process of applying for the national honour has seen a huge upswell of support for Norwich, from famous faces such as Stephen Fry and Delia Smith, cultural charities and groups like Norwich HEART and Norwich in Bloom, to the ordinary people of Norwich who see the title as a worthy honour for our fine city.

But the people behind the bid say it is vital not to lose momentum in the next few vital weeks, and now is the time to make sure the judges see the full spectrum of cultural activity in the city and understand the public support for the bid.

Nikki Rotsos, head of cultural services at the city council, said: “We want to say thank you to the city, to all the cultural organisations, individuals, artists, members of the public and businesses who have thrown themselves behind the bid.

“What we need to do now is to continue to get people involved and drum up even more support for the city.”

Details of the proposals for 2013 will remain a closely guarded secret at least until the bid team have made their final presentations to the judges in June.

Titled “A Whole City Experiment”, the bid features pop concerts, light shows, mass street feasts, and music, performance and literature from around the globe as well as showcasing local talent.

The programme will also deliver education schemes, opportunities for skills development, a new volunteering network to bring the city's small communities closer together.

It includes proposals for the country's first city-wide free data download zone, which will let people upload and download pictures, texts and other data linked to the City of Culture year.

It also proposes new resources and development for local communities, and new ways to get young people excited about literacy and learning.

Cultural services officer Marion Catlin said: “Culture is not just about high art and creative activity. It's also about the distinctive way of life that makes Norwich what it is.

“The bid focusses on celebrating that unique way of living and thinking - it wouldn't work in any other city.”

City council leader Steve Morphew said: “We are not going to be giving any secrets away, but it is fair to say that the year-long programme of events envisaged in our bid would touch every community in the city.

“This is not about highbrow art but using culture to transform the city and influence people's lives, not just in 2013 but for years to come.

“Norwich deserves to be UK City of Culture and this bid gives us every chance of securing what would be a tremendous boost to our economy.”

Among other famous supporters, the bid is backed by local hero and national treasure Stephen Fry, who said: “The city of Norwich has many fans, of which I am one.

“It has a fantastic and historic urban fabric, a glorious rural hinterland and an unparalled coastline of which I am proud to be able to tell people.

“I support the football club here and applaud the initiatives which I see taking place all over the city, wrought by the many excellent cultural organisations who work together to ensure an excellent quality of life for the citizens and those who are lucky enough to visit or stay.

“I hope that the judging panel will visit the city and see for themselves that it is a place fully deserving of the title of City of Culture, able to make the most use of winning 2013 to complete the journey started in 2003.”

Mr Fry has also been openly supporting the bid on Twitter and directing his 1.5m followers to the official website.

Norwich's bid will now go off to the independent judging panel along with bids from the other shortlisted cities, Birmingham, Sheffield and Derry/Londonderry.

The judges will send back questions and ask for clarifications, and Norwich's bid team will go to Liverpool on June 16 to present the bid and answer any concerns about their proposals.

The panel will present their verdict to the Secretary of State for Culture after the presentations, and the winner will be announced in July.

The judging panel is chaired by Phil Redmond, the creative director behind Liverpool's successful year as European Capital of Culture in 2008.

Panel members include musician and TV presenter Lauren Laverne, BBC trustee Rotha Johnston, Visiting Arts chair Robert Palmer and former Welsh culture director Margaret Evans.

The government has introduced the UK City of Culture competition because it is not until 2022 that another UK city can benefit from the European Capital of Culture programme in the way that both Glasgow and Liverpool have already done.

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Official Norwich 2013 bid website

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