Culture plans will forge ahead

Published: Thursday, 7th December 2017

Partners involved in the bid for Stoke-on-Trent to become UK City of Culture 2021 have vowed to forge ahead with the city’s cultural transformation plans despite not winning the title.

The news comes as the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced Coventry as the winner of the competition. Stoke-on-Trent was one of five shortlisted cities to make it to the final round of the competition.   

A number of partners have been heavily involved in the bid, which was led by the city council – including The Sentinel, Staffordshire University, Keele University, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, Alton Towers, Stoke City FC, Port Vale FC, JCB, KMF, B-Arts and New Vic Theatre among a host of others. Residents, artists and other organisations have also shown massive support for the bid.  

Stoke-on-Trent City Council deputy leader Abi Brown, who is chair of the city’s bid, said: “We are extremely disappointed that we didn’t win. Our thanks go to everyone who has worked so hard to help us to get to this stage. It was a heartfelt and outstandingly credible bid that reflected the true talent and passion in this city. Despite not winning, we feel the bid has changed the city forever and we and all partners involved have already collectively vowed to continue with our ‘Plan B’. This means that many cultural initiatives will continue and grow in the city regardless.

“Not only have we seen a groundswell of support, but pride and confidence has built across the city as well, with one out of every two people saying they know about the bid, and 94 per cent of people agreeing bidding was a good or very good thing to do. We want to build on this positivity and maximise the bid process opportunities for the benefit of the whole city. 

“We’ve already seen a £4m endorsement in the area’s cultural quality through the recent National Portfolio Organisation announcement from Arts Council England, as well as £300,000 through its Cultural Destinations programme. We are also committed to £52m of capital investment in the city which will include improving a number of cultural attractions and the public realm.”

Just this week, Historic England announced that Longton has been chosen as a Heritage Action Zone – one of only eight across the country. It will see historic buildings in the town brought back into use over a five-year period, including helping to safeguard the future of the remaining 48 bottle ovens and kilns across the city.

Paul Williams was seconded from Staffordshire University to work on the bid. He said: “We now have a 10-year cultural strategy in place. This will frame and drive our priorities to make culture intrinsic in all that we do across the city. This includes building capacity, more city-wide co-ordination, better access to funding, stronger links with education, infrastructure improvements and other benefits.” 

Councillor Anthony Munday, cabinet member for greener city, development and leisure said: “This has been a fantastic experience for the city. We’ve already seen the image of Stoke-on-Trent changing as a result of the bid with visitor numbers increasing to the city and the Sunday Times putting us in the top 20 of cultural cities to visit in the UK. Major initiatives such as the iconic ceramic poppy tour coming here in 2018 will also serve to continue to build our reputation as a top cultural and creative visitor destination.” 

Keele University pro-vice chancellor David Amigoni, chair of the bid’s cultural forum, said: “We are committed across the city to continuing to grow our cultural expertise. We now have in place a thriving cultural forum and a research observatory working with Staffordshire University to make sure we capture the success and learning from the bid. We’re working with cultural organisations so that we can better understand the impact and benefits of culture in the Stoke-on-Trent.”

Susan Clarke is part of the panel who presented to the judges in Hull. She is artistic director for B-Arts, which was successfully awarded National Portfolio Organisation status by Arts Council England – a designation given to groups which represent some of the best arts practice in the world. Susan said: “Getting to this stage has been a result of so many people coming together to benefit the city. It shows the special artistic quality in Stoke-on-Trent and it’s been inspiring to see people being much more ambitious than they ever would have been before. The bid has brought out the best of the city and we want to grow and nurture that for the future.” 

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