UK City of Culture 2025 - what can it do for Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft?

Yarmouth Out There Festival 2014. The Color of Time by Artonik.

Great Yarmouth already has a good track record delivering high quality arts' festivals like Out There, helping to prove it can make a success of City of Culture 2025. - Credit: Nick Butcher

As the East Coast declares its intention to bid for City of Culture Status 2025 we look at what it could mean for our towns if we win.

On Tuesday (July 13) Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Gorleston said they were collectively going for the status in the hope it would deliver an economic boost, greater tourism numbers, and confidence.

It is the first time joint bids have been allowed under the programme, born out of the European City of Culture designation that the UK was no longer eligible to enter following Brexit.

An aerial view of Gorleston beach, earlier in the day as crowds start arriving Photo: Mike Page

Gorleston's starring role in Danny Boyle's Yesterday is being hailed among its cultural credentials as it bids for City of Culture 2025 status along with Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft. - Credit: Mike Page

What is a UK city of Culture?

The government-backed accolade puts the winner in the cultural spotlight for a year with the aim of attracting investment, jobs, and boosting pride in an area which needs a helping hand economically, and possibly to shrug off a negative reputation.

They are decided from a shortlist every four years. Winners so far have been Derry-Londonderry (2013), Hull (2017), and Coventry (2021, put back a year due to Covid).

Hull prepares to raise the roof when it becomes the UK City of Culture (photograph: Hull 2017)

Hull prepares to raise the roof when it becomes the UK City of Culture (photograph: Hull 2017) - Credit: Archant

What has it done for them?

In the case of Hull the status reportedly attracted more than five million people, £220m of investment, and 800 new jobs. 

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With a raft of events going on,  including naked blue people in the streets, visitors were more willing to look again at Hull and change the ethos and perception of the once derided town, while locals were persuaded to try new things. 

Its cultural programme included 365 days of art, theatre, music and other events. It is estimated that city of culture status brought a huge boost to the economy in 2017, while nine out of 10 residents attended, or took part in, an event.

In Londonderry locals described it as their happiest ever year saying they would do it all again, while economists said there was a long term impact and legacy.

Winning the status means the opportunity to host high profile events with the announcement of the International Booker Prize winner coming from current status holder Coventry as part of its programme of events, as well as hosting the Turner Prize.

It is set to enjoy an economic boost of around £211 million, with an additional 2.5 million visitors to its region.

first light festival

Lowestoft's First Light Festival is part of its cultural offer which makes the most of its position at Britain's most easterly point. - Credit: Mick Howes

Who are we up against?

Among those to have declared bids so far are Bradford, officially Britain's "curry capital" and home to the country's tallest water fountain; Chelmsford, one of Britain's newest cities as from 2012; Medway, where Nelson's flagship Victory was built and launched in 1765; Southampton, birthplace of Benny Hill and where the Titanic set off from on its tragic maiden voyage; and Cornwall, also bidding as a group of towns for the first time.

Several others have thrown their hat in the ring but not declared. Norwich ruled out bidding in May 2021, having been shortlisted among the final four for 2013.

A redevelopment of Great Yarmouth's historic Market Place is a key part of the borough council's vis

A redevelopment of Great Yarmouth's historic Market Place is a key part of the borough council's vision to regenerate the town centre and prove to judges it is worthy of City of Culture 2025 status. - Credit: Archant

What about our bid?

Great Yarmouth Borough Council and East Suffolk Council have announced the bid will focus on Great Yarmouth, Gorleston and Lowestoft.

The bid aims to showcase the three towns' culture, diversity, and people, but seek to challenge the low social mobility and disadvantage in the area.

The joint bid has won the support of New Anglia LEP, Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils, Norfolk Community Foundation, Norfolk and Suffolk Chambers of Commerce, the area’s three MPs and many other major regional public sector stakeholders, arts and community organisations.

Steve Gallant

East Suffolk council leader Steve Gallant at the launch of the bid. - Credit: East Suffolk Council

The two councils will submit plans by Monday, July 19. The decision on whether their bid has made it onto the long list will be announced in early September 2021, with the UK City of Culture 2025 winner being announced in May next year.

Carl Smith, leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council said achieving the status would be "really something special" for Norfolk and East Suffolk.

Because of Covid the city status would run from June 2025 to June 2026 which would "fit lovely" with the re-opening of the Winter Gardens, he added.

So far the bidding process had cost around £6,000, mainly in officer time, he said. If successful the authorities would have to match fund what they were awarded, which they would be prepared to do, he added.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council leader, Carl Smith, by the Winter Gardens which has been awarded £10

Leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council Carl Smith is excited about the 2025 City of Culture bid which, if successful, could coincide with the reopening of the Winter Gardens. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021