Rick Wakeman joins last push in City of Culture bid

Mary HamiltonNorwich's bid to be UK City of Culture in 2013 has received a surge of high-profile support this week as the final chance to influence the judges' opinion approaches.Mary Hamilton

Norwich's bid to be UK City of Culture in 2013 has received a surge of high-profile support this week as the final chance to influence the judges' opinion approaches.

This week rock legend Rick Wakeman lent his voice to the growing chorus of musicians, actors, directors, writers, comedians, artists and others who are backing Norwich in the competition to take the prestigious title.

The former Yes keyboard player, who lives near Diss, said he would still support Norwich's bid even if he lived elsewhere because it was his favourite city in the world.

Mr Wakeman said: 'I think if Norwich wins it - and I really hope we do win it - it will open lots of people's eyes to what we have here.

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'If I didn't live round here I would still hope Norwich won.

'There would be a huge surge of people coming to the city. Lots of people at the moment aren't going abroad because of various problems, so they are looking to explore the UK and I'm 100pc sure that anyone who came to Norwich once would want to come here again.'

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Mr Wakeman was the latest in a string of high-profile supporters including writer Ian McEwan, cookery queen Delia Smith, and comedians Arthur Smith, Charlie Higson and Paul Whitehouse.

Veteran actor and director Simon Callow, who starred in films including Four Weddings and a Funeral, Amadeus, and Shakespeare in Love, described Norwich in glowing terms.

He said: 'I can think of no city in Britain better suited to be the City of Culture for 2013.

'In terms of physical beauty, of historical importance and of powerful atmosphere, it is second to none - to say nothing of its wonderful restaurants and pubs and excellent shops.

'It is a courteous and efficient city, too. But more important than that, it embodies the great soul of British culture.'

And Christopher Biggins, who is currently performing at the Theatre Royal in the Rocky Horror Show, said: 'I'm very willing to support Norwich - it's got so much going for it.'

Archers actor Tim Bentinck, celebrity chef Marco Pierre White, actress Miranda Raison and author Amit Chaudhuri have all stood up to support the bid, along with Stephen Fry.

Mr Fry said: 'There is surely no city in the UK that deserves the accolade more and it is high time that Norwich took its place in the limelight as a model for city living in the 21st century.

'Good luck Norwich - bring the title back to Norfolk and the east.'

Norwich's City of Culture bid, titled 'A Whole City Experiment', was completed and sent to the judges on May 21, and since then there has been a push for support in the final weeks before a decision is made.

Next week the team behind A Whole City Experiment will be travelling to Liverpool to present the bid to the judging panel and answer questions.

The session, which takes place on Wednesday, June 16, will be the last chance for the bid team to impress the judges before they retire to consider whether Norwich, Birmingham, Sheffield or Derry/Londonderry should take the title.

The independent judging panel is led by Phil Redmond, who was creative director of Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture in 2008.

An announcement is expected in July to reveal the winning city.

For more information about the City of Culture bid or to register your support, visit www.norwichcityofculture.co.uk or www.tinyurl.com/norwich-2013.

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