Last week (12 February 2015) a vibrant workshop was held to consider what it would take for Worcester and the surrounding area to bid for City of Culture 2021.
The workshop, organised jointly by Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership, Worcester City Council and Worcestershire County Council, attracted more than 75 representatives from businesses, local authorities, sporting clubs, arts, cultural and other partner organisations.
The event at Worcester Racecourse, which was open to all stakeholders, sought to bring as many interested parties as possible together to explore:
- The process to make a City of Culture bid
- Who would need to be involved
- What a local bid could look like
- Resources required, financial costs and benefits
- The feasibility of a potential bid.
Attendees heard from Gary Woodman, Executive Director of Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership and Duncan Sharkey, Managing Director of Worcester City Council about the economic benefits of such a bid, the resources required and what Worcester and the surrounding areas already have to offer.
Robert Keeling, Worcestershire LEP’s Westminster Cabinet Office representative, provided the perspective of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the latest information on that Department’s current consultation process. Until the consultation outcome is known, there could be some changes to the process including in which year the next City of Culture will be effective. It is currently programmed for 2021.
Keith Blundell, a consultant with extensive experience of having worked on previous bids including those successful in Liverpool and Hull, provided a real insight into what would be required for a successful bid. A further understanding of the resources and finances required was also gained, together with a better feel for the range of arts, cultural, sporting and other opportunities available. For example, Hull, which was awarded the status for 2017, is planning an event for every day of the year whilst anticipating significant benefits for the economy.
An engaging and vibrant workshop followed where attendees could provide their feedback, consider what could be Worcester’s unique offer, how any challenges could be overcome and how their organisations could possibly be involved.
Peter Pawsey, Executive Chair of the Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “There certainly was enthusiasm throughout the workshop, whilst attendees were also realistic about the hard work, financial and other resources that would be needed across many of the organisations in the room if a bid is to be submitted for the City of Culture 2021.
“As we have said before, even if we were unsuccessful, submitting such a bid would be a catalyst for things to really happen in and around Worcester – including delivery of various development projects and more events attracting an increased number of visitors, benefitting the economy and raising the profile of the City and County. We now need to analyse the feedback to consider the next steps.
“Councillor David Wilkinson, Cabinet Member for Safer and Stronger Communities at Worcester City Council, said: “The City of Culture debate was positive and very engaging. There was real enthusiasm for, and belief in, the strength of Worcester’s offering – from arts organisations, businesses and public bodies alike. We now need to stand back and analyse all the feedback received. ”
Councillor Lucy Hodgson, Worcestershire County Council Cabinet Member for Localism and Communities, said: “‘The event really captured the level of partnership working that would be required in order to successfully make a bid and there were some interesting discussions during the day. It was an encouraging start and we will now have to look at the feedback and consider the way forward. We need to ensure that whatever decision is made it is in the best interests of the city and Worcestershire as a whole.”
All of the feedback from the workshop will now be collated and considered by the three organisations to understand what the next steps should be.