Revealed: Sunderland's competition for the City of Culture title

The race to become UK City of Culture 2021 is officially on.

Thursday, 2nd March 2017, 9:21 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 9:55 am
Launch of Sunderland's City of Culture Bid 2021 at Ryhope Engine Museum. Street dancers Dancejam.

Today the Government confirmed a list of towns and cities who will vie for the coveted title. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) officially revealed Sunderland will be up against the following places: Cardiff, Coventry, Hereford, Paisley, Perth, Portsmouth, St Davids, Stoke, Swansea, Warrington, Wells.

The UK City of Culture title is designed to use culture as a catalyst for economic and social regeneration and raise the profile of arts and creativity. It also helps cities develop a broader arts and culture sector, as well as attract increased business investment and boost tourism.

Sunderland City of Culture 2021 bid logo.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

It is estimated that being the UK City of Culture 2017 will deliver £60 million to Hull’s economy this year alone. The city has already seen a £1 billion boost in investment since winning the title in 2013.

Rebecca Ball, director of Sunderland’s 2021 bid, said: “Today is an important day in the process, and although it’s good to know who we’re up against, we also know that our focus must be on our own bid and convincing the judges that Sunderland would be a worthy winner of the title.

“We’ve already started writing the bid, which will be ambitious and inspirational – but achievable and deliverable. We’re being honest in talking about the challenges the city faces, and how a successful bid could help solve some of those challenges.

“It’s not about putting on a programme of events for an artistic elite; it’s about how a successful bid could tackle real problems in the city – how we could create jobs, boost the economy, reduce loneliness and isolation and give young people an extra reason to stay in the city.

Sunderland City of Culture 2021 bid logo.

“It’s also about repositioning Sunderland as an ambitious, cultural city with a proud past and an exciting future.

“Support for our bid is both local and regional, but we still need more evidence of that support – so if people are thinking ‘that’s a great idea, but how can I support it?’ then follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.

Leader of Sunderland City Council, Councillor Paul Watson added: “I believe that Sunderland is in the middle of a cultural renaissance, and our bid is based on a city and a community re-imagining its future.

“We nurture creative people and industries with venues that can spur on the music and arts scene, with such a renewed sense of purpose that it is hard to remember when our city has seen so much redevelopment at one time.

“Achieving City of Culture status would help us send a message to the world that we are a city that is changing, rebuilding and that has something exciting to offer and which could help deliver change for the whole of the North East.”

Final bids are due in to DCMS by the end of April after which they will be assessed by an independent advisory panel. A shortlist will then be announced in the summer, before the winning city is announced in Hull in December.

Minister for Digital and Culture, Matt Hancock, said: “I am delighted to see so many bids from across the country, showing how many areas recognise the important role culture can play in the development and regeneration of communities.

“UK City of Culture helps boost tourism and raises the profile of arts and culture.

“The exciting funding commitment from the Heritage Lottery Fund is yet another incentive for towns to secure this prestigious title.”

The Sunderland bid is being written by a team from Sunderland Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust, the University of Sunderland and Sunderland City Council.

For more information about the bid, log on to or catch-up with the latest bid news via Twitter at @Sunderland2021