“The secret's out! Now everyone's going to know what we knew already: that Stoke-on-Trent is a true city of culture. Being shortlisted is brilliant news for the city.”
Anna Francis, associate professor at Staffordshire University
Staffordshire University is celebrating news that Stoke-on-Trent has been named as finalist for the UK City of Culture 2021 title.
The news sees the city edge a step closer to scooping the coveted accolade, after an announcement by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. There are now just five cities left in the competition – Stoke-on-Trent, Coventry, Paisley, Sunderland and Swansea – and the winner will be announced at the end of the year.
Hull holds the title of UK City of Culture for 2017, and the designation has seen 6,400 jobs created in the city in five years; a £3.3bn investment since 2013; and a boost to visitor numbers in East Yorkshire.
Led by Stoke-on-Trent City Council – partners working alongside Staffordshire University in the bidding process include The Sentinel, Keele University, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership. Residents and businesses are being encouraged now more than ever to get behind the bid.
Staffordshire University Pro Vice-Chancellor Ieuan Ellis said: "The news was a fitting finale to a week of celebrations as we witnessed 3000 Staffordshire University students graduate in the beautiful Trentham Gardens.
"There's a tangible culture of optimism and opportunity in our city and we hope to build on that with support of our connected community of Staffordshire University students and staff to make sure we capture the area's unique offer."
City council deputy leader Abi Brown, who is chair of the city's bid said: "Winning would be the start of a legacy with far-reaching impact that benefits the whole city – it will bring more jobs, more visitors, more top quality cultural activity, boost skills and capacity and increase collaboration, pride and self-confidence across Stoke-on-Trent and beyond."
The announcement on the shortlisted cities follows a meeting of the UK City of Culture independent advisory panel. John Glen, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism said: "I have seen first hand how Hull has embraced its status as City of Culture 2017, and how beneficial it has been for the area. I am looking forward to seeing what will come in 2021."
Phil Redmond, Chair of the UK City of Culture panel added: "The appetite for using culture to bring about regeneration and to strengthen communities is clearly stronger than ever."
Paul Williams, who is currently on secondment from Staffordshire University to help lead on the bid, said: "This is the best news. Winning is a wonderful opportunity for Stoke-on-Trent to change the way it is viewed within the UK and to accelerate the growth of the local economy.
"The bid for UK City of Culture 2021 is for the whole city and neighbouring areas and it shows what we can do collectively. We now call on everyone to really back the bid and believe that we can win and deliver an amazing transformational year for the city."
Members of staff across the University have also welcomed the news. Anna Francis, artist, associate professor at Staffordshire University and director at AirSpace Gallery said: "The secret's out! Now everyone's going to know what we knew already: that Stoke-on-Trent is a true city of culture. Being shortlisted is brilliant news for the city."
Katie Leonard, member of the Stoke Cultural Education Partnership, lecturer at Staffordshire University and education programme manager at the British Ceramics Biennial, said: "This is a fantastic opportunity to showcase high quality arts and culture for every child to be inspired by, leading to creative learning pathways for all children and young people in Stoke-on-Trent; the City of Makers."
Television explorer Lev Wood, originally from Forsbrook, who was made an honorary graduate of Staffordshire University last week confirmed he was also backing the bid. He said: "Stoke-on-Trent has got such an amazing amount to offer – a really rich cultural legacy and a fantastic history and some amazing places to come and visit so I’m certainly going to be supporting that whole heartedly."
A judging panel is expected to visit the city in September and a final bid will be submitted by the end of September. The bid team will also present to a panel in Hull and the winner will be decided and announced in Hull in late November or early December.
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