Business leaders are getting behind Sunderland’s bid to be named UK City of Culture 2021 – which could boost the region’s economy by more than £100million.
Today sees judges visiting the city – having previously toured rival locations Paisley, Stoke, Swansea and Coventry – with the winner set to be announced next month.
Those backing the bid say that should Sunderland be named UK City of Culture 2021, the North East could benefit from an economic boost in excess of £100million.
With such a significant impact on the economy, the benefits would reach far beyond the realms of culture.
As well as uniting the city and wider region in a celebration of Sunderland culture, it has the potential to create immense opportunities for business.
Paul Callaghan, Sunderland entrepreneur, and driving force behind the Sunderland MAC Trust, said: “Being part of this competition has created an opportunity for us to unite the city and wider region.
“Creative industries – stimulated by the spotlight a status like City of Culture generates – make a huge contribution to the economy. Nationally, the rise of creative industries is one of our great success stories, growing at almost twice the rate of the wider economy; worth a staggering £84billion a year and exporting ideas and products across globe. T
“To attract more to Sunderland could have huge social and economic advantages.
“It’s great to see the creative community getting behind the bid, and, increasingly, businesses of all kinds are lending support and helping us lead a charge to a brighter future.”
Station Taxis has backed the bid since it started, with its fleet adorned in Sunderland’s 2021 colours.
Managing director, Trevor Hines, said: “As a local business, we feel it is very important to encourage people to get behind UK City of Culture 2021.
“The encouraging changes being made throughout the city are clear, and if we were to be successful in our bid, the investment into the city would transform the place.
“I think it would be a real positive catalyst for change, and we are proud to support such change.”
The Bridges Shopping Centre has also shown its support for Sunderland’s bid, proudly displaying student artwork designed to celebrate and support the 2021 bid.
Andrew Bradley, centre manager at The Bridges, said: “As the Bridges welcomes millions of visitors through its doors every year, we are delighted to be playing our part in showing how important the Culture bid is to the city to a huge audience and getting them to engage with it.
“At the same time we can also showcase to our retailers what a win would mean to Sunderland and the huge, positive economic impact that would have for everyone.
The positive impact of such investment is evident with previous winners of the City of Culture title.
When Londonderry/Derry carried the title in 2013, it welcomed an estimated 600,000 extra visitors to the city and wider region as a direct result of City of Culture. Hotel occupancy rates in and around the city peaked at about 92% in the summer.
Hull, current City of Culture champions, was once voted the second most undesirable place to live in England. Now, a multi-million injection of cultural activity into the city has cemented a new reputation as a place to visit, rather than avoid.
The benefits of winning go beyond the initial year’s programme. It is estimated that being crowned City of Culture will deliver a £60million economic boost to Hull, creating jobs and increasing tourism throughout the East Riding. Projections indicate some 1,200 jobs will be created in tourism and culture, that it will deliver 20 per cent growth in creative industries and that about seven million visitors could contribute to the £184million expected to be pumped into the local economy.
Even unsuccessful towns and cities gain from the bidding process. Durham’s bi-annual Lumiere Festival, which resulted from its failed bid, attracted 175,000 visitors and an estimated £5.8million to local economy in 2013 – an example of the impact the work undertaken in a bid to win the coveted title can have.
Should Sunderland claim the title, it is estimated that the North East could benefit from an economic boost exceeding £100milliom. It would kick-start a four-year period of growth, innovation and creativity and culminate in a year of exciting cultural and artistic events.
Rebecca Ball is positive about the changes that the bid can create. She said: “Success breeds success. We know that a successful City of Culture bid would lead to tremendous growth in the realms of culture – it would enable the musicians across the region to take the next steps in their career.
“It would bring more visitors to our stunning theatre. It would inspire communities to be creative. And importantly, it would enable investment into our local businesses, allowing them to grow and thrive.”
James Ramsbotham, Chief Executive at the North-East Chamber of Commerce, said: “It’s great to see businesses backing the bid.
“We know how much businesses, particularly those in leisure and tourism, benefit from large-scale events like stadium concerts, the Ashes test and the Great North Run, but imagine that impact spread over a whole year!
“And we know that once we can persuade people to visit the North East, they tend to come back. For years I have said that our region is an unrealised asset, but we are also an undiscovered gem for so many people – rarely do I welcome a visitor from outside the region who isn’t blown away by what we have to offer.
“Hopefully, while the region celebrates the unique culture and heritage of Sunderland over 12 months, our companies could be celebrating a year of increased investment, new customers and growth.”
“Winning the bid would transform the businesses of the city. The investment would facilitate much needed positive change – for Sunderland, and the region.”
To find out more about Sunderland’s Bid to be the City of Culture 2021, visit www.sunderland2021.com or follow @Sunderland2021.