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



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They would be following in the footsteps of Derry/Londonderry, Hull and Coventry.

Cambridge, Ely and Peterborough could launch a joint bid to become the new UK City of Culture from 2025.

A view down King's Parade, Cambridge.
A view down King's Parade, Cambridge.

The new mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, Dr Nik Johnson, announced his intention to bid today (June 2) after the government announced last Thursday that groups of towns and cities will be eligible to put in a joint bid.

He said: “I am proposing – and this isn’t a new idea, I will acknowledge that Peterborough was working towards this anyway as a City of Culture – we are going to try and put together something from the Combined Authority working across all our areas, to do a combined bid.

“As I said, a county of culture, but really focusing on what I would call the three cities, Peterborough, Cambridge and of course Ely, which is now my spiritual home, and will be for the next four years.

“We are going to be innovative, we are going to look at all the different groups across the area, and hopefully working together with compassion, co-operation and community, with the fourth C of change and then the fifth C of culture, we can be the county of culture for 2025.”

Dr Nik Johnson, the new mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority seen in Ely, where the mayor's office is based. Picture: Keith Heppell
Dr Nik Johnson, the new mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority seen in Ely, where the mayor's office is based. Picture: Keith Heppell

But the Combined Authority could face plenty of competition.

Bradford, Chelmsford, Luton, Medway, Northampton, Southampton, Lancashire and Tees Valley have already indicated their interest in bidding.

Derry/Londonderry took the title in 2013, with Hull in 2017. Coventry is the current City of Culture, from this year.

The government said the City of Culture title “attracted millions of visitors and drew in significant investments” for both Derry-Londonderry and Hull.

It said Coventry “will see a significant boost in visitor numbers and economic investment” with over £110 million in additional investment secured over the 2018-22 period as a result of its current City of Culture status. The aim there is to attract around 5,000 volunteers and create more than 900 jobs.

Peterborough Cathedral
Peterborough Cathedral

And the government said bidding for the title in its own right can also have a “hugely positive impact on a place – helping to bring partners together and develop strategic cultural leadership”. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is offering funding of up to £40,000 to up to six longlisted areas to help develop their applications.

Announcing the opening of the application process on May 29, the culture secretary Oliver Dowden MP said: “UK City of Culture is a fantastic showcase of the huge impact culture has in towns and cities across the country.

“From Derry-Londonderry, to Hull and Coventry, previous winners have shown how the competition can deliver greater cultural participation, drive economic regeneration and boost local pride. I encourage towns and cities across the UK to put forward bids for 2025 and champion their local arts and culture scene.”

The girls’ choir from Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire having an outside rehearsal on the Octagon roof. Picture: Geoff Robinson Photography
The girls’ choir from Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire having an outside rehearsal on the Octagon roof. Picture: Geoff Robinson Photography

The winning area will be announced in spring 2022.

The bids for the 2025 title will be assessed by an independent panel chaired by Sir Phil Redmond. The panel of 11 members will include representatives for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England. It will visit each of the shortlisted cities, to be announced later this year, before each city or town makes a final pitch to become the next UK City of Culture.

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