Sunderland today takes one step closer to being named UK City of Culture 2021 after making the grade for the shortlist.
The eleven towns and cities that registered bids for the prestigious title have been whittled down to five following a meeting of an independent advisory panel.
Sunderland is now in the running with the four other shortlisted bidders: Coventry, Paisley, Stoke-on-Trent and Swansea.
The shortlisted areas will be invited to submit a final bid by the end of September.
The overall winner will be announced in December this year, becoming the third UK City of Culture, and following in the footsteps of Derry-Londonderry and Hull.
John Glen, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism said: “We have received strong bids from across the UK and now have a fantastic shortlist of five that reflect the diversity and cultural ambition of our towns and cities.
“I want to congratulate all eleven bids which offered brilliant examples of how to celebrate their own unique culture and heritage, and showed just how prestigious and coveted the UK City of Culture is.
“The strength of the competition showed us how valuable our cultural assets are to our towns, boosting tourism and jobs in local communities. I have seen first hand how Hull has embraced its status as City of Culture 2017, and how beneficial it has been for the area. I am looking forward to seeing what will come in 2021.”
Hull is the current City of Culture and its programme includes 365 days of cultural events.
It is estimated that City of Culture has brought a boost of £60 million to the local economy in 2017. Nine out of 10 residents have attended, or taken part in, an event as part of Hull 2017 and the city has seen over £1 billion of investment since winning the title in 2013. The winner of UK City of Culture 2021 will also have access to a £3 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant.
Phil Redmond, chairman of the UK City of Culture panel said: “The quality, commitment and enthusiasm that came across from the eleven bidders made deciding a shortlist to recommend to Ministers as difficult as it was for the two previous UK City of Culture competitions.
“The appetite for using culture to bring about regeneration and to strengthen communities is clearly stronger than ever. Overall the panel thought that five cities’ bids showed the potential to deliver a UK City of Culture 2021 programme. I want to thank all eleven bidders for all their work and look forward to final bids from Coventry, Paisley, Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland and Swansea later this year.”
The eleven initial bids were made by Coventry, Hereford, Paisley, Perth, Portsmouth, St David’s and the Hundred of Dewisland, Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland, Swansea, Warrington and Wells.