We should all back Plymouth's bid to be City of Culture 2017
THE Herald is today calling on everyone in Plymouth to get behind a bid to become the UK's next City of Culture.
Efforts to secure the 2017 accolade are gathering pace, as bid leaders prepare to take their case to the Government.
If Plymouth is successful, the tourism boost could be a multi-million-pound money-spinner.
The city could also host top-class events like the Brit Awards, Turner Prize and BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony.
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Today, MPs, business leaders and culture champions all urged residents to back the bid.
"This would put the city on the map," said David Parlby, Plymouth Chamber of Commerce chief executive.
The Herald revealed in January how city leaders were putting together the bid.
The competition was launched on the back of Liverpool being named European Capital of Culture in 2008. That city has since undergone a transformation.
Derry/Londonderry will be the UK's inaugural holder of the national award in 2013.
The Plymouth Culture Board is due to submit an expression of interest to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport early in the New Year. The deadline for the initial bid is in April, with a shortlist to emerge by July and the winner announced next autumn.
A bid director is expected to be appointed and a taskforce set up as Plymouth's plans progress.
Plymouth Culture Board executive director Abby Johnson said: "This is about attracting visitors – but it's also for people in the city.
"This is their project. What would they want to see?
"Once we go out to consultation in the New Year I'm sure there will be a lot of ideas."
The culture board is expecting to be told the exact rules of entry within the next ten days. A delegation from Plymouth will meet with ministers in the New Year.
"I believe Plymouth has got such potential," Ms Johnson added. "People can help by simply talking up the city and talking up their cultural experiences."
She said winning would create jobs, boost creative industries and see visitors' spending rocket, adding: "Liverpool got £8 back for every £1 it put into the European Capital of Culture bid."
Mr Parlby, who was involved in researching the financial benefits of the city's World Cup 2018 bid two years ago, said: "We found the six-week tournament was going to create about £145million extra spend in the city. Well, multiply that by a year and you start to see the size of the prize."
Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View Alison Seabeck said. "Arts isn't just airy-fairy stuff – it means real money in your economy. If you can up the ante on your cultural offering, you get more visitors. We want the world to come to Plymouth."
Meanwhile, traders are already looking forward to the potential tourism boost, said city centre manager Clint Jones.
"Everybody in the city should be on board with it", he added.
CALL ON BUSINESSES FOR FINANCIAL BACKING
BUSINESSES are being urged to back a City of Culture bid with cash.
Plymouth City Council and Plymouth University have each pledged £20,000 towards the ambitious project.
But that gift was on the condition the £40,000 handout is matched by the private sector.
The Plymouth Culture Board, which is leading efforts to bring the accolade to the city in 2017, will begin lobbying local businesses in the New Year.
But executive director Abby Johnson said the signs were already good.
"We are really pleased to get the commitment from the city council and the university," she said.
"To have that commitment and that real money available is fantastic. Now it's our job to get out to the private sector and explain to them all about the people and opportunities we could bring to Plymouth and how they would benefit from this.
"Times are tough but there are good reasons why the private sector should want to support and get behind it. We've had really positive letters of support from the Plymouth Area Business Council and the Chamber of Commerce."
Making an initial expression of interest in the prize is not a costly process.
But tens of thousands of pounds may be needed before submitting a firm bid in April next year.
Some of that could be spent on research that helps put forward a compelling case for why Plymouth should be awarded the title.
The private sector, as well as residents and health, education, volunteering and culture experts, will be involved in drawing up the bid, Ms Johnson added.
David Parlby, chief executive of the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce, said: "We're pretty aware of the cost that is involved in preparing the bid, but I think it's a really good prize worth going for.
"We will work with the city council and the culture board to help secure the necessary funding to make the bid happen.
"The chamber itself is unable to donate money because we're not a rich organisation, but we will certainly work with our members and the business community to try and encourage people to do so."
But Mr Parlby warned: "We are in a very difficult time. Business growth is going to be worse than projected previously. Businesses are running very, very fast indeed just to stand still at the moment.
"Getting private sector enterprises to dig their hands in their pockets is not going to be easy."
Those leading the charge are under no illusions about how strong the city's bid must be.
Plymouth is certain to face stiff competition and, although none of its competitors have yet been confirmed, Leicester, Derby and Aberdeen are among the cities expected to be in the running.
"We're not going to get this because we deserve it," said Oliver Colvile, MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport.
"We'll get it because we've submitted the best bid."
THE HERALD SAYS...
TODAY The Herald is throwing its weight behind the push to become the next UK City of Culture.
We believe this is an essential step toward this city realising its full potential and achieving our ambition for growth.
It is a cause behind which we can all unify. Already we can see business chiefs, politicians and cultural leaders speaking with one voice to express their enthusiasm for a successful bid.
The council and university have each pledged £20,000 to help prepare the case for Plymouth ahead of the formal bidding process.
They should both be commended for having the courage to take this important step. The council in particular is under extreme financial pressure – we have reported how it is faced with making more than £17m in savings for the next year. It would have been easy for them to dismiss this as a gamble we can ill afford. Instead they have demonstrated they recognise a City of Culture bid as a worthwhile investment which could underpin the resurgence of our fortunes. This is time for steady nerves, imagination and a long term view.
Now we need the people of the city to embrace the idea and really push to make it become a reality.
David Parlby, chief executive of the Plymouth's Chamber of Commerce, has led the call for businesses in particular to step up and play their part.
If we succeed we will all reap the rewards. Don't be fooled by the name – City of Culture is not just about creating a series of exclusive shows for a high-brow elite. No, look at the benefits the European prize has delivered around our country in cities like Liverpool and Glasgow. In a few weeks Londonderry will officially open itself for business as the UK's cultural capital and we will undoubtedly see it flourish.
It is hoped Plymouth's bid would attract a host of glittering popular events including the Brit Awards and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. And there is a clear economic benefit – the returns could be huge both in terms of generating cash and jobs.
There is no guarantee we would win a bid but this is a risk we have to take – it is a risk any city with ambition must be willing to take.