Momentum grows for Norwich to bid for UK City of Culture 2025

PUBLISHED: 18:20 28 November 2017 | UPDATED: 19:21 28 November 2017

Norwich Castle. Photo: Nick Butcher

Norwich Castle. Photo: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2017

Our fine city is rich with music, art, theatre and more, and momentum is gathering pace for Norwich to bid to be UK City of Culture 2025.

Darren Henley, CEO of Arts Council England with Professor John Last of the Norwich University of the Arts. Picture: Denisa IlieDarren Henley, CEO of Arts Council England with Professor John Last of the Norwich University of the Arts. Picture: Denisa Ilie

In a visit to Norwich University of the Arts this week, Arts Council England CEO Darren Henley said he believed Norwich was well placed to campaign for the title and follow in the footsteps of Hull, the 2017 UK City of Culture, which he said had been transformed by the accolade.

“There is no reason why Norwich would not be a very strong contender,” he said, as he praised the city’s vibrant arts scene.

Norwich, which is already a UNESCO City of Literature, previously bid to be UK City of Culture 2013. It reached the finals alongside ultimate winner Londonderry as well as Birmingham and Sheffield, and saw off competition from 29 other places.

Following the 2040 Norwich Vision conference last week, Norwich City Council leader Alan Waters said the authority would give careful consideration to a potential bid. He said: “The positivity about Norwich and the collective responsibility of wanting to see our city be the very best that it can means we will give careful consideration as to the possibility of leading on submitting a bid for the UK City of Culture 2025.”

Norwich Theatre Royal.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYNorwich Theatre Royal. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Professor John Last, NUA’s vice-chancellor, is among those keen to put in a bid. He said: “We’d certainly lend our support to a bid to win City of Culture status for Norwich in 2025. All around the city, there’s evidence of a thriving creative community and a rich, diverse cultural life that we should all be proud of. From our experience in helping to bring the British Art Show to Norwich for the first time in 2016, it’s clear that raising the profile of the creative arts through major cultural events carries significant economic benefits to the city.”

Norwich Theatre Royal chief executive Stephen Crocker said: “I am absolutely supportive of working together with partners to highlight the fantastic cultural offer here in Norwich and to further cement the city and county as landmark destinations for culture.”

Writers’ Centre Norwich chief executive Chris Gribble, who was involved in the 2013 bid, said: “We (Norwich) have got the experience, we have got a really strong set of cultural partners, and I think we would be able to tell a really good story and put in a really good pitch. There’s a huge amount of enthusiasm for it...It’s a lot of hard work but it starts really interesting conversations, really brings cultural partners together and can be a really good catalyst for things.”

Adam Taylor, executive director of The Garage, said: “I think it would be truly exciting to bid for UK Capital of Culture 2025. I think the culture in Norwich and across Norfolk is reflective of the people so I think there would be wide-ranging support.”

The Nelson and Norfolk exhibition at Norwich Castle Museum earlier this year. Picture: ANTONY KELLYThe Nelson and Norfolk exhibition at Norwich Castle Museum earlier this year. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

He added if Norwich was to win the title it would provide a great platform to promote the brilliant array of work being created and presented in the city, and it would also help to boost the local economy.

Arts Council England chief executive praises Norwich’s arts scene

Arts Council England CEO Darren Henley spoke of how impressed he was with Norwich’s cultural scene when he visited Norwich University of the Arts on MondayNov 27.

Total Ensemble Theatre Company performing at the 2017 Norfolk and Norwich Festival. Picture : ANTONY KELLYTotal Ensemble Theatre Company performing at the 2017 Norfolk and Norwich Festival. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

“Norwich Castle is the real jewel in the crown for Norwich. When you see the sort of riches you’ve got there it’s fantastic,” he said, adding NUA was also a great asset.

“Universities are great custodians of arts and culture in the cities where they are based and I think having an arts university in a city is a very special thing.”

Mr Henley said still more could be done to invest in culture, not only in traditional art forms but also in new technology.

“There’s no reason why a digitally well connected and physically well connected place like Norwich couldn’t be a really strong creative industries hub,” he said.

Turning to Brexit, he said it could offer opportunities to the local arts industry through the university.

“Norwich historically was a great gateway to Europe and I don’t see why Norwich can’t be a gateway to Europe again in the future.”

UK City of Culture 2017

Since winning the UK City of Culture 2017 title, Hull has seen a £1bn investment and it is estimated the city’s economy will have a £60m boost this year.

Throughout the year the city has hosted all manner of events across the arts, and in the first quarter of the year alone it is thought the packed events programme helped inspire nine out of 10 people living in Hull to take part in cultural activity.

Among the most famous events linked to Hull’s City of Culture status this year has been Spencer Tunick’s Sea of Hull project which saw more than 3,000 people strip naked and be painted blue.

The final major commission of the Hull UK City of Culture 2017 programme is Jason Bruges’ art installation Where Do We Go From Here? which opens on FridayDec 1. It is described as a “groundbreaking kinetic artwork” and uses light, robotics and sound to create a unique immersive experience in the streets of Hull’s historic old town.

Applying to be a UK City of Culture

The honour of UK City of Culture is bestowed on a city or large town once every four years.

Londonderry was the inaugural holder of the award in 2013 followed by Hull in 2017.

Potential recipients must apply to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport with a bid reflecting the area’s cultural ambitions.

Eleven places applied to be UK City of Culture 2021 and the final five that have been shortlisted are Coventry, Paisley, Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland and Swansea. The 2021 winner is expected to be announced in December and the Heritage Lottery Fund has pledged to give £3m to the winning city. The 2021 winner will need to prove its bid is centred around heritage, and it will build on existing investment it gets from the lottery fund.

Already some places have shown interest in bidding to be UK City of Culture 2025 and these include Luton, Tees Valley, Aberdeen and Bradford. The final 2025 bidding process is not expected to take place until 2020.

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