Torbay Council, Torbay Development Agency and Exeter City Council have “joined forces” to bid for 2025 UK City of Culture status, with their eyes on a prize of £300 million in claimed economic benefits.
The bid is said to be inspired by the “closely connected coastal and city destinations” despite Brixham and Exeter being an hour and a half apart by public transport. A “cultural corridor” to “link the city to the sea” is proposed, presumably running down the A380 and showcasing the new Kingkerswell bypass.
Andy Burnham dreamt up the quadrennial designation when he was culture secretary after seeing how much money flowed into Liverpool during its stint as 2008 European Capital of Culture.
Ben Bradshaw, his successor at DCMS, announced the first competition the following year. Its previous winners were Derry in 2013 and Hull in 2017. Coventry is the current title holder.
Runners and riders for 2025 apparently include Bradford, Chelmsford, Medway, Southampton and Cornwall. Plymouth is also rumoured to be considering a bid, offering the prospect of a south west peninsula playoff.
Lancashire withdrew its county-wide “virtual city” bid from the competition last month after deciding that underwriting the project by up to £22 million was “too great a financial risk”.
The Tees Valley Combined Authority, which was first to throw its hat into the ring for the 2025 competition back in 2015, put down £1.8 million to prepare its bid before also withdrawing earlier this year.
It concluded that costs of up to £25 million were a bit steep for “someone to give us a pat on the head and give us a fancy title”.
A shortlist of six applicants will be notified in September and the winning bid announcement is expected by the end of the year.