A pledge has been made to ensure that arts and culture remain firmly in the spotlight in Great Yarmouth and East Suffolk, despite the combined areas not making the longlist for the UK City of Culture 2025 competition.
In July, a record 20 different locations submitted bids to become the UK City of Culture 2025 and following an announcement from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) today, eight locations from across the country have been selected to go on to the next stage of the bidding process. A final three will be announced in January, with the winning area unveiled in May 2022.
A successful bid led by Great Yarmouth Borough and East Suffolk Councils would have seen the two coastal areas host a year-long programme of creative events and activities in 2025 to showcase their cultural offers to the world. However, while disappointed not to make it through to the next stage, both councils believe the spotlight has been worthwhile and the experience a very positive one, with plans in place to ensure local communities continue to benefit from existing and future cultural activities.
Cllr Carl Smith, Leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, and Cllr Steve Gallant, Leader of East Suffolk Council, sent their congratulations and good luck wishes to the longlist candidates which are continuing in the competition, and said they would be happy to work with them as they progressed their plans.
Cllr Steve Gallant, Leader of East Suffolk Council, said: “Whilst this is obviously disappointing news, our ambition to shine a light on the wealth of amazing arts and cultural groups and activities in East Suffolk and Great Yarmouth firmly remains. Our bid has brought people together to talk about the potential of the area and we fully intend to keep that momentum going. The key focus for our joint bid was to offer and promote cultural activities which our communities could get involved with and we will continue to do that wherever possible.
“The City of Culture process is highly competitive and challenging and we are proud of our collaborative hard work with Great Yarmouth Borough Council and our other partners. We are also grateful to everyone who expressed their support for the bid.”
Cllr Carl Smith, Leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, said: “Whilst our exciting bid with East Suffolk Council to become the UK City of Culture 2025 will not progress to the next stage of the competition, it has created a lot of interest and we are determined to push forward with shining a spotlight on our area. We feel strongly that our coastal region is an inspirational and special place, with a rich and multi-layered culture and many wonderful opportunities. We are determined to open that up to everyone who lives, works or studies here, with all the wonderful benefits it can bring, and to share it and showcase it to the world.
“The shared experience of collaborating on ideas and skills across our two councils has also been hugely positive, while the support for the bid from our cultural and other sectors has been overwhelming and we thank everyone for their hard work and commitment to our cause. We will harness that support and can promise that this is not the end of our endeavours to unlock the creative talent and opportunities we know exist here on our doorstep.”
The joint bid attracted national attention, which was bolstered by the timely appearance of several Banksy artworks in Great Yarmouth, Gorleston and Lowestoft in August. As well as receiving widespread press attention, huge numbers of visitors came from across the country to view the works, putting East Suffolk and Great Yarmouth on the map as a visitor destination and providing a huge boost to the City of Culture bid.
Both councils have already established extensive cultural regeneration programmes to attract investment into their area’s infrastructure and cultural sectors. Recently, the Government has awarded a total of more than £63m across the two areas by way of the Towns Deal, Heritage Action Zones and Future High Streets Programme funding in Great Yarmouth, Gorleston & Lowestoft. Arts Council England has also named Great Yarmouth as one of its 54 priority places which it will focus on with its three-year Delivery Plan for 2021–2024, to reflect the opportunity for cultural investment.
In September, East Suffolk’s cabinet agreed, regardless of the outcome of the bid, that an East Suffolk Cultural Strategy would be developed to help deliver an ambitious cultural programme across the district.
And in Great Yarmouth, the council’s Culture, Heritage and Tourism strategy ‘Our Place Is Your Stage’ (July 2020) will continue to put arts and culture at the forefront of the borough’s levelling up plans and pandemic recovery strategy. A legacy project to continue the interest created by the Banksy artworks is already underway and will see a trail of street art developed in the resort and street artists working with young people.