Colchester: Town launches City of Culture bid

COLCHESTER is set to launch a bid to become the next UK City of Culture.

Inspired by the European Capital of Culture 2008, the scheme has been set up by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Bids must include ideas for a year-long cultural programme of events in any urban area, including towns – despite the reference to “city” in the scheme’s title.

Entries must also build in plans for long-term social regeneration and boost the local economy.

Destination Colchester, an independent community company, will be leading the bid for Britain’s oldest recorded town, building on Colchester’s existing assets such as its castle and the Firstsite arts facility. Colchester was included in the Ipswich and Haven Gateway bid for City of Culture status 2013, which covered both towns and north Essex. Derry was chosen as the winner from a shortlist that included Birmingham, Norwich and Sheffield.

This year the town will be going it alone in the hope that it can be crowned the next City of Culture in 2017.

In March, Colchester also lost out to Chelmsford in a bid to become one of three new cities named as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Destination Colchester chairman John Salmon said: “Colchester has got a lot going for it in terms of culture, such as Firstsite, the Mercury Theatre and the Colchester Free Festival, so we see this as a way of co-ordinating all of these and bringing them all together.

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“We can’t fail even if we don’t win because it’s the process that matters, by linking everyone together.”

The cost of the project, if successful, is thought to be about �10million. Colchester Borough Council said it could not dedicate serious resources to the project, bearing in mind the pressure its finances were under at present.

Mr Salmon said grants and sponsorship would be the likely sources of funding.

However, the status does open up major investment opportunities. BT is pouring �30m in broadband technology in Derry as the city’s main partner and sponsor following their successful bid.

Mr Salmon added: “We started by talking to people at Firstsite but Colchester Borough Council is yet to be convinced.

“I think it’s in our favour to go it alone this time as it wasn’t really a coherent area in the last bid.

“The next stop is to invite people to get in touch and call a meeting to discuss initial ideas. We can get it going but we want it to be a community project with as many people involved as possible.”

He is hoping Colchester’s bid will be formed by early next year. Aberdeen, Derby and Stoke-on-Trent have also suggested that they will bid for the 2017 title.

For more information or to register interest in the bid visit www.colchestercityofculture.co.uk

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