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Combined Authority backtracks on plans for City of Culture 2025 bid

Political leaders in Cambridgeshire decided against putting in a bid to the UK City of Culture 2025 competition - but said they do plan to enter in future.

The mayor of the Combined Authority of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Dr Nik Johnson, suggested in June 2020 that a bid would be prepared for the programme, which helps to encourage tourism and brings economic benefits.

Dr Nik Johnson, the mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority. Picture: Keith Heppell
Dr Nik Johnson, the mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority. Picture: Keith Heppell

It was suggested that the area could apply to become the ‘county of culture’, focused around the three cities of Cambridge, Ely and Peterborough, after the government confirmed that groups of towns or cities could prepare a bid.

But Dr Johnson had second thoughts after discussing the issue further.

A spokesperson for the Combined Authority of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough told the Cambridge Independent: “Mayor Dr Johnson and the leaders of the Combined Authority assessed the pros and cons of putting a ‘County of Culture’ bid into the 2025 competition.

“Whilst aware of the likely economic and social benefits for any area that wins, the leaders decided against bidding for the 2025 programme after receiving advice that our culture sector was not at full strength, following the impact of Covid across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and that time is too short to prepare the best possible bid.

“However, mayor Dr Johnson remains passionately committed to supporting the culture of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough in its many aspects, believing it is fundamental to community wellbeing.

“With that in mind, the Combined Authority is working towards making a powerful and compelling bid in the future, showcasing our area in all its diversity, history, and creativity.”

The contest to succeed Coventry and become the new City of Culture will be hotly contested, however, with a record 20 entries - suggesting other areas have pounced on the opportunity to bolster a tourism industry that has suffered badly during the pandemic.

Coventry expected its 2021 City of Culture status to provide “a significant boost in visitor numbers and economic investment”, with suggestions that it had secured £100million in investment, along with £15.5million from the government. More than 900 jobs have been created thanks to the status.

It took over from Hull, the 2017 City of Culture, which reported 5.3 million visits to more than 2,800 events and activities during the year.

Those bidding for the 2025 City of Culture are: Armagh city, Banbridge and Craigavon; the city of Bangor and north-west Wales; the Borderlands region, comprising Dumfries and Galloway, Scottish borders, Northumberland, Cumbria and Carlisle city; Bradford; Conwy county; Cornwall; Derby; County Durham; Lancashire; Medway; the city of Newport; Powys; Southampton; Stirling; the Tay Cities region; Torbay and Exeter; Wakefield district; the city of Wolverhampton; Wrexham county borough; and Great Yarmouth and East Suffolk.

A longlist of entrants will be produced in the coming months, with those on it receiving a £40,000 grant to prepare their bids, before the final winner is announced in May 2022.

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Could Cambridge, Ely and Peterborough become the joint UK City of Culture in 2025?

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