Tees Valley puts City of Culture 2025 bid on ice - Hartlepool council chief says bosses are looking at alternative options

A bid to make the Tees Valley – including Hartlepool – a ‘City of Culture’ in 2025 has been put on ice.

Friday, 17th January 2020, 6:26 pm
Updated Monday, 20th January 2020, 2:06 pm
Hartlepool council leader Shane Moore

The Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) had intended to put a bid together to become the UK’s City of Culture in 2021.

But delays on what the process will actually entail – and how much money may be spent – have led to an alternative idea being drawn up.

Hartlepool council leader Shane Moore, who is portfolio holder for culture and tourism on the combined authority, told an overview and scrutiny committee no decision had been made yet.

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However, he added there had been a “lot of apprehension” about whether a formal City of Culture bid was worth the effort.

The Hartlepool Council leader said: “We’ve requested a step back to take stock – I appreciate there was a lot of work done in the strategy around that.

“But when the report was shared with a wider audience and local authorities, there was a lot of hesitation about what was in it.

“We were asked to go away and come up with an alternative in case this City of Culture bid didn’t go ahead.

“That’s why the less formal approach is an option there.”

The City of Culture idea was first aired in 2015 when former Teesside University vice-chancellor Professor Graham Henderson announced Tees Valley Unlimited and its partners should declare an intent to bid.

A report recommending the groundwork be prepared for a bid was agreed by the TVCA in 2017.

Now a “second option” has been drawn up in the culture brief which takes an approach “not constrained by a bidding process”.

Coun Moore added: “It’s worth pointing out that Luton has announced they are going to drop their bid and focus on a town-wide creative skills project and developing local artists.

“This is about giving us another option – we were asked to go away and review everything that’s what we’ve done.”

The TVCA has earmarked £60million to be spent on culture and tourism up to 2029.

When it comes to the bid, authority bosses are also waiting for the government to release it’s delayed cultural strategy before deciding on what to do.

Coun Moore said: “Everyone is assuming there will be a formal bidding process for City of Culture 2025 – (but) it hasn’t been formally announced.

“A lot of the talk we’ve heard on this is they want to focus more on towns.

“It really would be prudent to wait and see.”

Conservative councillor Tony Riordan believed past criteria to become a City of Culture were stacked against the Tees Valley.

Coun Riordan added: “There was a paragraph which concerned me that if we spend a lot of money we might not actually get the bid.

“It’s the last sentence – ‘bids or programmes which are diluted across a wider area will be viewed less favourably than those with a central focus’.

“We fit into that.”

A final decision on whether or not to bid will be made by the TVCA cabinet later this month.