Durham had previously submitted a bid to be ‘City of Culture’ in 2009 for the 2013 title given to Derry/Londonderry that year. They took forward many of the lessons from that process into a vibrant cultural partnership – Culture Durham and the continued growth of some amazing cultural events around the city. Their formal decision to throw a hat into the ring for ‘City of Culture 2025’ was however, only taken when the refreshed guidance was released, 6 weeks before the deadline for submissions.
The Counterculture team of Jo Wright (Vice-Chair and Partner) and Andrew Evans (Associate) leapt into action and worked with Durham County Council, Durham University, Durham Cathedral, Culture Durham, and others to craft an expression of interest to deliver a county of culture reflecting the uniqueness of the remarkable county.
The focused of the bid was three aspects of life that make Durham unique, but from which many communities around the UK, and the world, can draw lessons for cultural regeneration:
• Durham City: a global gem with World Heritage Site status and an innovative digital and cultural industry supported by our world class university.
• Industrial Durham: resilient communities experiencing renewal after the decline of heavy industry, with a rich folk-history and deep-rooted cultures.
• Wild Durham: Some of the UK’s richest natural heritage, stunning coasts, waterfalls, and moorlands, with ancient roots and a growing visitor economy.
As well as our core bid writing team, we were able to draw on the governance expertise of Counterculture Partner Keith Arrowsmith and the experience of Lee Corner, former chair of Hull 2017, to ensure Durham delivered a submission which was fresh, original, and comprehensively addressed the criteria set by DCMS.
The bid included an innovative, participatory governance model, and some very exciting ideas for artists and events (all super-secret for now!) as well as presenting a compelling economic case for why Durham deserves to be a visitor economy powerhouse driven by a diverse and exciting cultural offer.
Our bid was one of eight to be selected from twenty submitted – the most ever, and we are now working with Durham County Council and the other partners on the full submission which, we hope, will see the county through to the final four places which will be visited by the selection panel chaired by Sir Phil Redmond.