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City of Culture 2021 – and what it means for business

Contenders for the UK’s City of Culture 2021 have been announced and there are no less than 11 in the running. But what might it mean for business if your city wins?

Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland, Coventry, Hereford, Perth and Paisley all declared their interest in being named City of Culture 2021 last year. They’ve now been joined by Portsmouth, Wells, Warrington and Swansea plus the smallest city in Britain, St Davids.

The successful city will succeed Hull, the City of Culture for 2017.

UK Government Minister Andrew Dunlop said the UK City of Culture competition, “is a fantastic opportunity for the winning city to really put itself on the map. The title is a unique opportunity to drive artistic innovation, bring in visitors, and boost regeneration and economic growth.”

The Heritage Lottery Fund has pledged £3m to the winning city and it’s likely that considerably more will follow. Since winning the title in 2013, Hull has seen a £1bn investment and it’s estimated that the city’s economy will receive a £60m boost this year.

The birthplace of notable names such as slavery abolitionist William Wilberforce, poet Philip Larkin and The Beautiful South’s Paul Heaton has already seen the launch of Spencer Tunick’s Sea of Hull art project, where more than 3,000 people stripped naked and were painted blue, and new 3D artwork commissioned for The Deep aquarium (pictured). These, among many other arts projects, are expected to bring a surge of visitors to the city over the next four years.


Benefits for business

If past performance in Hull and the original UK City of Culture, Derry/Londonderry is anything to go by, the next holder of the title can expect a significant boost to local businesses from increased visitors and additional media coverage – greater awareness leading to more footfall throughout the four-year term. The spotlight on the winning city is anticipated to attract an additional 1 million visitors in 2017 alone, with benefits to local business in hospitality, entertainment and leisure industries, as well as knock-on effects across many other industries.

When Hull was first announced as UK City of Culture in 2013, the benefits to local Hullensian business soon became clear. Within a year, hotel bookings rose by 15 per cent, visits to the city’s museums increased by 54 per cent during holiday periods, and there had been an estimated £16m worth of positive media coverage, with a feast of good news stories related to the arts in Hull. Those benefits should continue to grow, with visitor spend expected to rise by £184m by 2020.

Hull is only the second UK City of Culture, following Derry/Londonderry in 2013 and beating Leicester, Dundee and Swansea Bay to the title. Final bids for 2021 are due by the end of April with a shortlist due to be announced in July and we’ll know the identity of the winning city in December.


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