Yorkshire MPs push for commitment to capital of culture

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The Government is facing mounting pressure to greenlight the next round of bids for European Capital of Culture, as Yorkshire MPs urge ministers to cash in on the region’s ”wealth” of cultural assets.

Writing to culture minister Matthew Hancock, the group of MPs claim promoting the region’s heritage is the key to unlocking local investment and enhancing quality of life.

However, they argue the area has so far failed to gain the reputation for culture it “deserves”, despite being home to the UK’s “third largest and most diverse” city.

They have therefore called for the UK to commit to taking part in the 2023 Capital of Culture competition, and encouraged ministers to visit Leeds as it makes its bid for the title.

“Culture is critical to confidence, which directly benefits inward investment and economic prosperity, as well as improved quality of life,” the group writes.

“The UK city of culture project has already changed the city of Hull and will do significantly next year and in the future.

“Leeds has a wealth of cultural assets – including Opera North, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Northern Ballet – but as the UK’s third largest city and the most diverse... it does not have the reputation it deserves.

“The Government could further help efforts underway in the region ...[by making] an announcement on the European Capital of Culture 2023 competition in coming weeks.”

The letter, written by members of the Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire APPG, comes amid growing speculation about the future of the EU-led Capital of Culture (CoC) scheme in the wake of June’s Brexit vote.

Although non-EU states are eligible to bid for the title, there are reports that the Government is looking to pull out of the competition.

Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland has already written to Culture Secretary Karen Bradley urging her to end the uncertainty surrounding the 2023 celebrations.

He points out that Leeds has already spent more than £500,000 preparing its bid, and if successful the event could bring “huge benefits” for the entire Yorkshire region.

“Leeds would be a serious contender for the title, we know how much our city has to offer,” he told the Yorkshire Post yesterday.

“Ministers should end the uncertainty and confirm that the UK will indeed partake in the 2023 CoC title.

“Liverpool winning in 2008 boosted the North West economy by nearly £800m. So there are potentially huge benefits for Yorkshire if Leeds wins the 2023 title.”

It is understood that Bristol, Milton Keynes and Dundee are also in the running for the 2023 competition.

According to CoC selection panel chairman Steve Green, bidding would need to get underway by next month, in order to give city’s enough time to get their bids together for shortlisting in autumn 2017.

Commenting on the APPG letter, a Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesman stressed that until Brexit negotiations are concluded the UK remains “a full member” of the EU with “all the rights and obligations”.

“The outcome of these negotiations will determine what arrangements apply in relation to EU-administered programmes once the UK has left the EU,” they said.

“We want a new relationship to reflect the kind of mature, cooperative relationship that close friends and allies enjoy.”

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