Stirling, Perth, Dundee, Angus and Fife to compete against cross-border bid for UK culture city crown

Stirling, Dundee, Perthshire, Angus and Fife are to compete against a cross-border bid in a contest to crown the UK’s next culture capital.

V&A Dundee has attracted more than a million visitors since it opened to the public in September 2018. Picture: Frame Focus Capture Photography

The Scottish Borders and Dumfries & Galloway hope to make the shortlist for the UK City of Culture title by joining forces with Carlisle, Cumbria and Northumberland.

However, the “Borderlands” bid will be up against a solo bid from Stirling and a “Tay Cities” alliance.

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The UK Government, which runs the competition, announced a shake-up earlier this year to allow groups of councils to work together.

A record 20-strong field has entered the competition, which previously saw Paisley lose out to Coventry for this year’s crown.

A long list will be decided over the next few weeks and a shortlist announced early next year, with the final winner due to be revealed in May 2022.

Among the other contenders are Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon in Northern Ireland, and Powys, Newport, Wrexham County and Bangor in Wales.

Other English contenders include Bradford, Cornwall, Derby, County Durham, Lancashire, Medway, Southampton, Wakefield, Wolverhampton, Torbay and Exeter, and Great Yarmouth & East Suffolk.

Stirling is the only solo Scottish bidder for the UK City of Culture crown in 2025.

Scotland has not had a winner of the UK City of Culture contest since it was instigated by the UK Government in 2009.

Derry-Londonderry won the first contest, for the 2013 title, and Dundee made it onto the shortlist four years later, when Hull was crowned winner. Paisley’s bid lost out to Coventry in December last year.

Coventry programme, which has had £18.5 million in UK Government funding, is predicted to generate around £211m for its economy and more than 900 jobs.

Professor Russel Griggs, chair of South of Scotland Enterprise, which is leading the Borderlands bid under the theme of Just Transition to Net Zero, said: “By combining the efforts of the Borderlands partners, our bid now has the creative and cultural talent of five areas, providing a significant and varied offering which we believe is worth telling across the country and beyond.

Crawick Multiverse is one of the leading cultural attractions in Dumfries and Galloway. Picture: Mike Bolam.

“Coupled with our natural landscape, our people, our heritage and our joint journey to ‘net zero,’ we believe the Borderlands is the right place at the right time to take forward this exciting opportunity for our region.”

Dundee City Council leader John Alexander said: “We’ve seen here over recent years how powerful culture can be in leading regeneration.

"Our collective bid is about harnessing that transformative power and helping to ensure the region achieves its full social and economic potential.

“Becoming UK City of Culture would allow us to accelerate how we tell our story to the UK and the world, to connect our diverse rural and urban communities, and to bridge the divides of inequality."

A spokesman for the Stirling bid said: “We have ambitious plans, which stem from the groundswell of support and passion for culture that flows from our grassroots communities, artists and residents.

“Together this partnership has developed a shared vision that the whole region can get behind and benefit from, and bidding for UK City of Culture status will focus and accelerate our plans.”

Creative Scotland chief executive Iain Munro said: “These bids reinforce the importance of the arts and creativity to our wellbeing, our communities, the economy, and to Scotland as a nation as we emerge from the pandemic.“We know all these places are rich productive environments for creativity and culture and we look forward to continuing to work with them on their journeys towards realising their distinct and exciting ambitions.”

UK culture secretary Oliver Dowden said: “This record number of applications from all four corners of the country is testament to the huge success of the UK City of Culture in generating investment, creating jobs and boosting local pride.”

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