Worcester to bid for official ‘Heritage City’ status

Worcester, the quintessentially English city which boasts Elgar’s birthplace, the Cathedral in which King John lies and a major role in the establishment of democracy as the site of the final battle in the Civil War, is to bid for official ‘Heritage City’ status.

An estimated £2 million is being invested over the next three years to enhance Worcestershire’s heritage and cultural offer – with further significant investments being made to boost the county’s sports offer. The resulting boost in tourism will have a major impact on Worcester’s economy.

Britain’s Heritage Cities is a joint marketing initiative which currently promotes Bath, Carlisle, Chester, Durham, Lincoln, Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, Greenwich, Lancaster, Cambridge and York.

Cllr Lucy Hodgson, Cabinet Member for History and Heritage at Worcester City Council added:  “Worcester’s historic legacy, particularly in connection to the Civil War, is very compelling.

“We are confident that gaining Heritage City status is achievable for Worcester and would bring real lasting benefits to the city, raising its profile both nationally and internationally.”

Securing the accolade would build on Worcester being placed tenth in the first national Heritage Index, published last month by the RSA and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Worcester City Council, Worcestershire County Council and the Worcestershire LEP earlier this year debated the potential for Worcester to make a bid to be the UK’s City of Culture 2021.

“Our three organisations held a workshop in February 2015 to establish what the local arts and heritage organisations in Worcester and the surrounding area had to offer culturally; how that compared to other UK cities,” said Gary Woodman, Executive Director of the Worcestershire LEP.

“We also wanted to find out how strong an appetite there was locally to make a City of Culture bid, and crucially whether sufficient resources would be available – both financially and in terms of manpower and leadership – to deliver a compelling bid.”

Cllr Anthony Blagg, Cabinet Member for the Environment at Worcestershire County Council said:  “Although enthusiasm was expressed at the workshop to make a City of Culture bid, it has proved difficult to get firm commitment for the finance and resources that would be necessary.

“After careful consideration the three organisations have therefore agreed that instead, we will aim to secure Heritage City status for Worcester.  We will also work together to enhance and promote its world class sporting offer, which is a real existing strength for the city.”

In order to join Britain’s Heritage Cities, Worcester needs to meet a number of criteria, as well as demonstrating that it has an annual visitor spend of over £150m.

Key areas of investment to help expand tourism over the next three years include positioning the Commandery at the heart of Worcester’s heritage offer by focussing on its key role in the English Civil War (£260,000); development of a visual and performing arts trail linking Worcester and the Droitwich Canal Ring; and the ‘Worcestershire Remembers’ First World War activities and commemorations (£353,000).