The government announced on Thursday (May 29) that for the first time, groups of towns and cities will now be able to put in a joint bid for the title.
Mayor and leader of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, Labour’s Nik Johnson announced his intention to make such a bid as part of his election campaign.
Speaking to the combined authority board on Wednesday (June 2), he said: “I am proposing – and this isn’t a new idea, I will acknowledge that Peterborough was working towards this anyway as a City of Culture – we are going to try and put together something from the combined authority working across all our areas, to do a combined bid.
“As I said, a county of culture, but really focusing on what I would call the three cities, Peterborough, Cambridge and of course Ely, which is now my spiritual home, and will be for the next four years.
“We are going to be innovative, we are going to look at all the different groups across the area, and hopefully working together with compassion, cooperation and community, with the fourth C of change and then the fifth C of culture, we can be the county of culture for 2025.”
The first city to take on the title was Derry-Londonderry in 2013, then Coventry in 2017, and Hull is the current City of Culture for 2021.
The government said the City of Culture title “attracted millions of visitors and drew in significant investments” for both Derry-Londonderry and Hull.
It said Coventry “will see a significant boost in visitor numbers and economic investment” with over £110 million in additional investment secured over the 2018-22 period as a result of its current City of Culture status. The aim there is to attract around 5,000 volunteers and create more than 900 jobs.
And the government said bidding for the title in its own right can also have a “hugely positive impact on a place – helping to bring partners together and develop strategic cultural leadership”. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is offering funding of up to £40,000 to up to six longlisted areas to help develop their applications.
Announcing the opening of the application process on Thursday, the culture secretary Oliver Dowden MP said: “UK City of Culture is a fantastic showcase of the huge impact culture has in towns and cities across the country.
“From Derry-Londonderry, to Hull and Coventry, previous winners have shown how the competition can deliver greater cultural participation, drive economic regeneration and boost local pride. I encourage towns and cities across the UK to put forward bids for 2025 and champion their local arts and culture scene.”
The winning area will be announced in Spring 2022.
The bids for the 2025 title will be assessed by an independent panel chaired by Sir Phil Redmond. The panel of 11 members will include representatives for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England. It will visit each of the shortlisted cities, to be announced later this year, before each city or town makes a final pitch to become the next UK City of Culture.