CITY leaders are preparing a bid to bring the coveted UK City of Culture status to Sunderland in 2021.
If successful, it could stamp Sunderland firmly on the cultural map, ploughing millions into the economy and attracting investment in the arts.
Winning the title would result in a year of cultural events to draw in visitors and culture vultures, and spark creativity in Wearside communities.
Members of the city council’s cabinet are being asked to approve the development of a Sunderland bid for the UK City of Culture 2021 when they meet on Wednesday.
Among those supporting the proposed bid is the Sunderland Empire, which has attracted huge West End shows in recent months, including Disney’s The Lion King and War Horse.
Ben Phillips, general manager at the Empire, said: “We are delighted that Sunderland wants to develop a bid to be City of Culture 2021.
“This is a great opportunity for the city to generate a further array of cultural offerings to enhance the profile and visibility of the city.
“As the biggest theatre between Manchester and Edinburgh, we are aware that it is key to have a varied cultural and arts programme of activity in order to attract regional and national visitors, alongside the local community.
“A host of organisations and key leaders are working hard on this cultural bid and we wish them the best of luck with this process which, if successful, could be an exciting boost to the local economy and infrastructure.”
Should the bid go forward, the council is expecting to pay up to £300,000 for the campaign.
However, the taxpayer will not bear the brunt of the cost as the council will be seeking support from the private sector, including businesses, stakeholders and other sponsors.
Competition for the title would come from other cities expected to put forward a bid which include Worcester, Coventry, Hereford, Cardiff, Paisley, Plymouth, Aberdeen and Southend.
Even if the bid is not successful, the development of a bid itself has proved lucrative elsewhere.
Durham’s hugely successful Lumiere Festival sprung from its failed bid, but ploughed £5.8m into its economy and attracted 175,000 visitors in 2013.
The UK City of Culture programme, which runs every four years, was developed by the Government to build on the success of Liverpool being European Capital of Culture in 2008 and the Cultural Olympiad in 2012.
Hull has won the title for 2017 and members of the Sunderland Cultural Partnership Leadership Group have already visited the East Yorkshire city to witness the growth in tourism and culture winning the status has sparked.