Stirling to represent Scotland in next UK City of Culture contest

Stirling is to fly the flag for Scotland in the battle to become the next "UK City of Culture".

Picture: Thomas Haywood

The historic city is the only contender drawn from north of the Border to make the long list for the title for 2025.

Stirling’s bid leaders have said it will underpin wider ambitions to build and expand on its existing cultural strengths, as well as explore how culture can help improve the lives of local people and become a cornerstone of long-term regeneration efforts.

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Stirling will face competition from the likes of Bradford, Cornwall, County Durham, Derby and Southampton for the coveted crown.

Stirling is one of eight contenders to be named the next UK City of Culture. Picture: VisitScotland/Kenny Lam

A joint bid from Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, in Northern Ireland and Wrexham County Borough, in north Wales, have also made the shortlist.

The UK Government, which instigated the 2025 contest earlier this year, challenged bidders to show how culture could help their recovery from Covid, with a shake-up of the rules allowing different areas to join forces to enter.

However, a “Tay Cities” bid involving Angus, Dundee, Fife Council, and Perth & Kinross, and a cross-border bid, which saw Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders collaborate with Northumberland, Cumbria and Carlisle, failed to progress.

Stirling says it wants to ensure its cultural ambitions amplify its “huge array of talent”, promote Stirling as an attractive place to visit, learn, live and work, and deliver a “lasting legacy for future generations”.

The Big Noise Orchestra in Stirling is one of the official partners involved in the UK City of Culture bid.

Key collaborators in its bid include Stirling Council, the arts charity Artlink Central, the Macrobert Arts Centre, The Engine Shed, the Creative Stirling collective, Stirling University, the Big Noise Orchestra, the Stirling Smith art gallery and museum, Forth Valley College and the Go Forth business improvement district.

An official announcement on Stirling’s bid states: “Stirling prides itself as a place where arts, creativity and culture are recognised as truly transformational to its economy, the future of its communities and the quality of life of all residents.

“With a cultural offering that already includes a wide range of festivals, events and cultural programmes, including a strong track record of delivering major events on an international scale, Stirling is at an exciting stage in its cultural development, with future plans that will deliver an ambitious programme.”

Chris Kane, convener of Stirling Council's community planning and regeneration committee, said: “This is absolutely fantastic news and a huge boost in our aim to enhance Stirling’s ambitious cultural programme across all our communities.

“There was fierce competition to reach this stage and making the long list of candidates shows the incredible diversity and dynamism of Stirling’s current cultural offering and our exciting vision to build on this for future generations.

“We’re proud to represent Scotland in the next round and we excited to press forward with our partners to show that Stirling can be a beacon for breaking down barriers to participation in culture and the arts.

“Stirling is already famed for its world-class heritage offering, but this bid is about widening participation by celebrating the rich local culture and creativity in our communities.”

Iain Stewart, UK Government Minister for Scotland, said: “With its fascinating history and vibrant creative scene, Stirling is a strong contender for the title.

“I look forward to seeing proposals develop as Stirling strives to bring the UK City of Culture to Scotland for the first time.”

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