New War of the Roses as Wakefield and Bradford face Lancashire in City of Culture 2025 race

Wakefield and Bradford face stiff competition to be the UK’s next City of Culture in 2025 after a record 20 places entered the race - including the entire county of Lancashire.

One of the promotional images for the Bradford City of Culture 2025 bid.

Despite the title of the competition, regions and towns have also been encouraged to enter the race for the Government-run contest.

Lancashire and Cornwall are among those to have submitted bids, along with the likes of Derby, Wolverhampton, Southampton. Also in the running are Stirling, Powys and Conwy.

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Lancashire submitted a last-minute bid to the competition in July despite its county council withdrawing funding for it the previous month. Tony Attard, chair of Lancashire 2025, said at the time the bid was “so compelling we simply could not give up on it”.

The team behind the Wakefield City of Culture 2025 bid.

The separate bids from Wakefield and Bradford follow Hull holding the title in 2017 in a year which saw over 5.3 million visits to over 2,800 events, cultural activities, installations and exhibitions in the city.

Surveys found that 75 per cent of those who visited Hull in 2017 stated that it changed their perception of the city for the better, with nine out of 10 people in Hull thinking that UK City of Culture had a positive impact on the city.

The UK event was set up following Liverpool’s successful year as European Capital of Culture in 2008 and the title was first held by Derry-Londonderry in 2013.

After Hull’s turn in 2017, the current City of Culture is Coventry.

Entrants for 2025 have been tasked with proving that they can put culture at the heart of their plans to recover from the impact of the pandemic.

The 20 bidders will be reduced to an initial long list of bidders in the coming weeks and then cut down further to a final shortlist in early 2022. The winner will be announced in May 2022.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “This record number of applications from all four corners of the country is testament to the huge success of City of Culture in generating investment, creating jobs and boosting local pride.

“This prestigious prize creates a fantastic opportunity for towns and cities to build back better from the pandemic and I wish all bidders the very best of luck.”

Sir Phil Redmond, Chair of the City of Culture Expert Advisory Panel, said: “From Derry-Londonderry to Hull and Coventry it has been a difficult and rewarding challenge to select the next UK City of Culture, and the list of potential candidates for 2025 indicates that life in the immediate future is going to be even more challenging.

“The three previous title holders have demonstrated the transformative and catalytic effect culture can bring about, even within places that have been ultimately unsuccessful but have gone on to develop collaborative and sustainable partnerships.”

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford Council, said: “Bradford Council is fully committed to competing for the 2025 UK City of Culture title and backing our district’s Cultural Sector who are putting in a huge amount of work to achieve this accolade.

“Our district is young, diverse, entrepreneurial and we want to play our full part in the life of the nation: the UK City of Culture title provides a platform to do this.

“There can be no regeneration without culture. Our bid will form a major part of the Council’s future planning and will have a major role to play in bringing together our communities, lifting our spirits, and providing a boost to our economy. Culture is at the heart of Bradford’s future.”

Shanaz Gulzar, Chair of Bradford 2025, added: “It’s great to see the official list of bidding cities from around the UK. I think now more than ever, everyone acknowledges the game-changing impact winning the City of Culture contest can have both economically and culturally, and nowhere is more deserving of that than Bradford District.

"We now wait with anticipation for the announcement in September when we will hear which six cities have been longlisted. In the meantime, we’ve so much happening across the district with Summer Unlocked - our family-friendly programme of free cultural events which is a real showcase of the wealth of talent and creativity we have here, and just a glimpse of what could be if we brought the title to Bradford.”

Cllr Denise Jeffery, Leader of Wakefield Council, said: “We are immensely proud of our district – with its many world-renowned attractions, rich heritage and exciting transformation programmes taking place and we want to share with the public, region and world what Wakefield has to offer.

“Our bid will be a truly collaborative effort – working closely with the cultural businesses and organisations that make our city and district great - to showcase our impressive cultural offer and bring together our communities to celebrate what makes us special and unique.

“Culture and creativity really is everywhere and is for everyone and our bid will support the district’s recovery by attracting more visitors, investment, driving skills development and increasing the number of high quality jobs for our residents.”

Full list of bidders:

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon

The City of Bangor and Northwest Wales

The Borderlands region, comprising Dumfries and Galloway, Scottish Borders, Northumberland, Cumbria and Carlisle City

Bradford

Conwy County

Cornwall

Derby

County Durham

Lancashire

Medway

City of Newport

Powys

Southampton

Stirling

The Tay Cities region

Torbay and Exeter

Wakefield District

City of Wolverhampton

Wrexham County Borough

Great Yarmouth & East Suffolk

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