Sunderland’s race to be City of Culture 2021 officially underway

An installation titled We Are Hull by artist Zolst Balogh is projected onto buildings in the city's Queen Victoria Square, marking the official opening of Hull's tenure as UK City of Culture. Credit:  Danny Lawson/PA Wire
An installation titled We Are Hull by artist Zolst Balogh is projected onto buildings in the city's Queen Victoria Square, marking the official opening of Hull's tenure as UK City of Culture. Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
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The race for Sunderland to be crowned UK City of Culture 2021 officially begins today.

Now Hull has kicked off its years as UK City of Culture 2017, the competition for the next title, in 2021, has begun with an official launch by Minister of State for Digital and Culture, Matt Hancock.

Though Sunderland has already announced its intention to bid for the prestigious title, it now must register with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) by the end of next month and submit an application by April 28.

Rebecca Ball, Sunderland 2021 bid director, said: “It’s really exciting for the competition to be launched and for us to receive the guidance of exactly what it is they’re looking for and what the bid application dates are. We have a real sense of urgency now we have a timetable.

“There’s been a huge amount of groundwork done by lots of partners, from the Sunderland Business Group getting behind it, to the community and voluntary sector. Now we have the guidance for the competition we are able to mobilise that and make the most of all the good will.”

The other cities expected to submit a bid include Coventry, Perth, Paisley, Stoke, Hereford and Warrington, with Sunderland sitting in second position with bookies.

Hull has started its year as City of Culture. Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Hull has started its year as City of Culture. Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Each candidate city will be assessed by an Independent Advisory Panel with a shortlist announced in the summer, before the winning city is announced in Hull in December.

Should Sunderland win the title it would have huge economic and cultural benefits for the city. The UK City of Culture, which is held every four years, is aimed at being a catalyst for economic and social regeneration, while also helping to raise the profile of arts and creativity locally and across the country.

Hull marked the start of its year on January 1 with a city centre opening event and fireworks display attended by 60,000 people, with the first week’s celebrations attracting more than 342,000 people over seven evenings.

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

Launch of Sunderland's City of Culture Bid 2021 at Ryhope Engine Museum.  Street dancers Dancejam.

Launch of Sunderland's City of Culture Bid 2021 at Ryhope Engine Museum. Street dancers Dancejam.

Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Digital and Culture, said: “The UK City of Culture is not only a prestigious title, but as Hull has shown, it is a great opportunity to use culture as a catalyst for economic and social regeneration.

“It showcases the unique identity of our cities, helps boost tourism, and raises the profile of art and culture. I urge local authorities and partnerships across the whole UK to consider entering the competition and I hope to see plenty of ambitious, exciting and innovative bids for 2021.”

Phil Redmond, chairman of the Independent Advisory Panel, said: “Having been on the journey from Liverpool 2008, Derry-Londonderry 2013 and now Hull 2017, I am delighted other cities will have the opportunity to bid and build upon the award for 2021.”

Councillor Daren Hale, deputy leader of Hull City Council, said: “Hull is already demonstrating how UK City of Culture can transform the fortunes of a city. For Hull, bidding and hosting UK City of Culture is part of a long-term plan to harness our city’s wonderful heritage and culture to change perceptions of the city, attract investment and create much-needed jobs for local people.

Launch of Sunderland's City of Culture Bid 2021 at Ryhope Engine Museum.  Bid Director Rebecca Ball.

Launch of Sunderland's City of Culture Bid 2021 at Ryhope Engine Museum. Bid Director Rebecca Ball.

“Whilst culture and the arts are just one part of the jigsaw, we are already seeing huge benefits. Confidence in the city has never been higher and more than £1 billion of investment is flowing into Hull, creating thousands of new jobs. Visitor numbers are increasing, new businesses are opening in the city centre and the volume of positive media coverage Hull is enjoying in the UK and around the world is staggering.

“Winning UK City of Culture has generated an enormous sense of local pride among local people and a renewed sense of confidence and self-belief in what the city can achieve. This started during the bidding process and is why I would encourage other councils to consider bidding to be the next UK City of Culture.”