Economic windfall predicted if Norwich becomes City of Culture
Ben KendallNorfolk could be set for an economic windfall after Norwich reached the final shortlist to become the first ever UK City of Culture.Ben Kendall
Norfolk could be set for an economic windfall after Norwich reached the final shortlist to become the first UK City of Culture.
The city is among four in the running for the prestigious title, which would provide a major boost for tourism and attract new investment to the county. Some estimates suggest it could generate up to �200m for the economy of the winning city.
Ministers yesterday whittled down a list of 14 contenders - including Ipswich - to eliminate all but the strongest candidates. Norwich must now see off the challenge of Birmingham, Sheffield and Derry/Londonderry.
Culture secretary Margaret Hodge said: "I am really pleased that we attracted such a strong and varied field."
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The successful applicant will mark its status with a year of celebrations in 2013.
Chris Starkie, chief executive of economic development partnership Shaping Norfolk's Future, said the economic benefits could be far-reaching and long-lasting.
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He added: "This is a tremendous opportunity for Norwich and the county as a whole. We all know that Norwich is a wonderful cultural destination and now the rest of the world will know that as well.
"This would bring substantial economic benefits, putting the city in the national and international spotlight.
"In the long-term it could help change people's perceptions of the area, which could bring with it increased tourism and investment."
Steve Morphew, leader of Norwich City Council, said: "I am absolutely thrilled we have made the shortlist. This is a fantastic opportunity to use culture to make a real difference to people in Norwich, to encourage stronger links between neighbourhoods and the city centre, and make sure the whole city is vibrant and culturally active.
"Even being shortlisted means Norwich is recognised nationally and internationally as an important city of culture and will enjoy all the things that will bring."
City Hall and the City of Norwich
Partnership have led the bid and, over the next three months, will continue to work with cultural organisations to develop it further.
When Liverpool was selected as European Capital of Culture in 2008 it reaped huge benefits - both in straightforward economic terms but also in terms of the subsequent boost to its international profile.
Mr Morphew said he did not want to "reveal our hand" by commenting on the precise nature of how the city would celebrate the status.
But he said the aim would be to celebrate Norwich's heritage and make use of the facilities which already exist within the city. He added that the focus would be on broadening events beyond the city centre to ensure communities across Norwich were included.
He said: "There will be short-term gains in terms of boosting tourism - to some extent that will start immediately as even being shortlisted could put Norwich on the radar and make people look at the city in a different way.
"But in the long-term the gains could be far greater. It could fundamentally alter our national and international image. That could attract investment into the city and highlight the fact that it is a great place to live and work.
"We are very aware of Norwich's close relationship with the rest of the county and inevitably this will be something which benefits the whole of Norfolk."
Norwich South MP Charles Clarke said: "It is fantastic news that Norwich has been selected for the final shortlist for the UK City of Culture in 2013. I want to congratulate all those who have worked so well together to make this happen.
"Our fine city has a cultural heritage which is second to none, and that is strongly reinforced by our modern creativity and vibrancy.
"We would be worthy winners, so let's keep up the good work and win the final accolade."
Jonathan Holloway, artistic director and chief executive of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival, who co-authored the Norwich bid, said: "Norwich is a city that refuses to be categorised. It is overflowing with talent, imagination and potential. We host one of the UK's top five city festivals. We have beautiful venues, and audiences with a huge appetite for arts and culture. Why wouldn't we be shortlisted for the UK City of Culture?"
Graham Creelman, chairman of the City of Norwich Partnership, welcomed the announcement but said the city could not rest on its laurels.
"We really believe the engagement of the people of Norwich in cultural activity of all sorts is key to our well-being and success as a city, and as a force in the region.
"We're up against tough opposition, but we know that our offer is strong and, importantly, has support from communities and organisations right across the city and beyond."
Chris Gribble, of Writers' Centre Norwich, said: "We are delighted at Norwich's shortlisting for UK City of Culture. As the UK's first International City of Refuge and with a bid to become England's first Unesco City of Literature well under way, the UK City of Culture accreditation would be well-deserved recognition for a vibrant, thriving and creative city."
Phil Redmond, chairman of the independent advisory panel, said that selecting frontrunners had been difficult.
He added: "In deciding on the four cities recommended -- Derry/Londonderry, Birmingham, Norwich, and Sheffield - the panel was influenced by the expected step change each city was asked to envisage, if they gained the title and subsequent media spotlight.
"It was a hard choice, but also heartening that all bidders had recognised the power of culture to bring people together; to work collectively within existing resources for a common goal and bring into being networks that may not have existed before."