Community and voluntary groups, arts and cultural organisations, businesses and individuals across the Great Yarmouth Borough and East Suffolk Council areas have given an enthusiastic welcome to the coastal region’s entry into the race to become the UK City of Culture in 2025.
The two councils confirmed their joint bid on Monday July 19, backed by 150 letters of support from key players and community representatives of important sectors across the region.
Excitement has also been expressed on social media for what would be a game-changing opportunity, giving a huge boost to the tourism and hospitality sectors as they emerge from the pandemic and putting the whole area and its 70 miles of coastline into the spotlight as a major cultural destination.
Suffolk Chamber of Commerce president Paul Briddon said the bid would “showcase and highlight the vibrant cultural riches in evidence from Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft and indeed along the entire coast of our county” and would be a catalyst to help promote Suffolk’s wider cultural offer which is “significant both in terms of the numbers of people it directly and indirectly employs and in its impressive and growing diversity, which is attractive to not only local, but also national and global audiences.”
Amongst the many arts and cultural organisations giving their backing was Shrublands Community Centre in Gorleston. Managing director Andy Stubbings said it would be “transformative”, “provide an important milestone for our community” and “that coming together in this way to put on events and provide associated facilities can lift spirits and provide a deeper sense of wellbeing in tough times”.
Work is now under way to ensure the City of Culture bid will involve as many people as possible from local communities across both council areas to enable a grass roots/bottom upwards approach. It will aspire to challenge issues of low social mobility and address health inequalities in the area, as well as offer unique opportunities to artists and other participants, reaching out to audiences from all backgrounds to give as full a representation as possible for all identities and voices and providing a legacy for the years ahead.
The decision on whether the bid has made it onto the longlist will be announced in early September 2021, with the UK City of Culture 2025 winner being announced in May next year. It is the first-time groups of towns and places have been able to join together and apply for the title, and the bids for 2025 will be assessed by an independent advisory panel chaired by Sir Phil Redmond.
The longlisting of Great Yarmouth and East Suffolk’s bid will unlock funding of up to £40,000 to develop the application further, awarded by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport which is running the competitive process. The councils have committed to investing this sum in small grants to local cultural and community groups to enable them to work on their creative ideas and plans for the UK City of Culture programme which would run for a year from mid-2025 to mid-2026.
Over 150 stakeholder organisations have already expressed interest in being involved, with letters of support received from the area’s four MPs, the New Anglia LEP, Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils, Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies, the Norfolk & Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group, the UEA and the University of Suffolk, Norfolk Community Foundation, Community Action Suffolk and the Norfolk and Suffolk Chambers of Commerce, as well as many other key partners in environment, education, research, business, health and disability sectors.
Strong support has come from a wide range of artistic and cultural organisations such as The Hippodrome and St George’s in Great Yarmouth, Gorleston’s Pavilion Theatre, Lowestoft Theatres, DanceEast, The Cut arts centre at Halesworth, Britten Pears Arts, Norfolk and Norwich Festival, Suffolk Artlink, Waveney Blyth Arts, Screen Suffolk and many, many more.
Arts Council England, Preservation Trust and Heritage Action Zones, Creative People and Places (Freshly Greated), Cultural Education Partnerships (Lowestoft Rising and Enjoy), and the Norfolk Museums Service and libraries will be at the heart of the bid; while the councils have also engaged with the Broads Authority and the Wildlife Trusts and with marine partners at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science in Lowestoft.
Cllr Steve Gallant, Leader of East Suffolk Council said: “We want our communities to be completely involved and engaged with our ambitious plans to become City of Culture 2025 and have been delighted to receive so much support following the announcement of our intention to bid earlier this month. This is an incredible opportunity for both districts and along with our colleagues at Great Yarmouth, we will now be putting our combined efforts into ensuring as many people as possible are involved in the bid, which will aim to address local challenges and provide a wealth of unique opportunities.”
Leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, Cllr Carl Smith said: “We’re very heartened by the hugely positive and enthusiastic response we have received for our City of Culture bid in partnership with our colleagues at East Suffolk Council, and we give our sincere thanks to everyone who has given us support in this exciting endeavour.
“It’s an important part of our bid that the extensive programme of events and projects we devise not only reaches as many different parts of our communities and beyond as is possible, but also that we take everyone with us on this journey and they feel fully engaged, involved in and supported by it. There is a lot of hard work ahead of us now but, with such solid backing, we are determined to do all we can to make the very best case to bring this incredible opportunity to our coastline.”
Supportive comments for the bid:
On social media, local residents and organisations described the bid as 'ambitious and exciting', ‘such exciting news for our area’, 'fantastic news' and 'this wonderful place is getting the recognition it deserves'.
The Bid Team would be delighted to hear from any arts and cultural groups, businesses, community organisations or public sector concerns who would like to offer their support or be involved in the Great Yarmouth and East Suffolk UK City of Culture 2025 bid. Please email to email@example.com