Leicester will go head to head with Plymouth for City of Culture title
Leicester has confirmed it will go head to head with Plymouth in the battle to be named UK City of Culture in 2017.
Plymouth has already announced it is bidding for the honour, with the city council and university backing the start of the bidding process.
Leicester today confirmed it is to launch an ambitious bid to become the UK's next City of Culture.
Plymouth is also exopecting to face competition from Aberdeen and Derby, and Nottingham could also throw its hat into the ring.
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Leicester is hoping its multi-cultural history, track record of staging events such as Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival, Diwali celebrations and the Caribbean Carnival will help it secure the title.
Bid organisers say Leicester's time as the UK City of Culture would feature a large programme of festivals and participatory events.
Leicester City Council is pledging £50,000 to cover the initial stage of the bid.
In May or June cities will be short listed and, should a similar amount of cash will be needed to complete the bid.
Chief executive of Leicester's Curve theatre Fiona Allan, who is a member of the consortium planning the city's bid, told the Leicester Mercury: "To win would show we are confident in our cultural offer. There would be a significant media and tourism knock on.
"We have all the ingredients already.
"Leicester is one of the UK's most culturally diverse and interesting cities.
"From our Roman history, medieval growth, industrial prosperity to today welcoming people from all over the world to our diverse and vibrant communities, Leicester has rich stories to tell. The king in the car park is just one of many.
"While cultural organisations here like Curve already enjoy a global reputation, with significant investment having been made in Leicester's cultural infrastructure and the development of our creative industries, the time is ripe for Leicester to show its creativity to the world.
"It would be like the cultural equivalent of the Rugby World Cup."
Ms Allan said a program of proposed events would be drawn up.
She said: "Leicester is known as a city of festivals and there would be a large programme of festivals. We would want some real showcase events.
In recent years, new events – including Indian Summer, Leicester Fringe, Tales of the Riverside and the Green Light Festival – have appeared on the city's calendar alongside established favourites such as the Caribbean Carnival, Diwali, the Spark Children's Arts Festival and the comedy festival.
"I think people outside Leicester will be surprised by what we can offer," said Ms Allan.
"We need to change the narrative of the city which has been a bit negative in the past. We really underplay ourselves."
"There would also be participatory activities to get as many people as possible involved.
"We don't want to announce too many of our good ideas to rival cities. I am sure we will see more bids coming out of the cupboard in the next few weeks."
Cities vying for the title have until April 30 to submit a bid for consideration by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.
Leicester's bid will focus on its lively arts scene and highlight the breadth of cultural activity taking place, with workshops in museums and galleries, stand-up comedy in city centre pubs, international stars taking to the stage at Curve, and a Bollywood blockbuster – Mad, Madder, Maddest 2 – set to have its world premiere in the city in June.
Chief executive of the Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce Martin Traynor, is also a consortium member. He was part of a Leicester delegation to Derry last year when the bid was being touted.
He told the Leicester Mercury: "We are convinced this is something Leicester could do very well. We already have a rich multi-cultural offering.
"We have suffered from a low international and national profile but that can change.
"Richard III is already changing that and becoming UK City of Culture would be another springboard with massive potential impacts.
"Leisure and tourism is worth £1.4 billion per annum to the city and county. If we could increase that by just one per cent that would be £1.4 million and could create hundreds of jobs."
City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby, who is leading the consortium, told the Leicester Mercury: "Becoming UK City of Culture would bring huge benefits to Leicester, giving us an opportunity to highlight the city's history and reinforce its identity, while providing a much-needed boost to the local economy."
A city council spokeswoman told the Leicester Mercury: "In 2008, Liverpool was the European Capital of Culture – a title that business leaders estimate was worth an extra £200 million to the city's economy.
"Although the UK City of Culture competition is on a much smaller scale, it's clear that the opportunities for the winner are there to be seized."
The winner will be announced by the Government in November.