Southampton looks set to launch a bid to be the 2025 UK City of Culture after plans to do so moved a step closer to reality today.
The title, which in previous years has been awarded to cities including Hull (2017) and Derry-Londonderry (2013), has boosted positive media coverage and increased tourism, investment, and employment opportunities.
Coventry was recently awarded the 2021 title, and has already started preparing for the year-long spectacular.
The idea of Southampton bidding to be City of Culture was first reportedly considered in 2016, but councillors reportedly wanted to wait until the completion of the Studio 144 cultural venue opposite Guildhall Square, which opened earlier this year.
The Head of Arts Council England, Darren Henley, also reportedly told Councillor Satvir Kaur (Cabinet Member for Communities, Culture and Leisure) that the ‘time is right’ for a bid during the grand opening of the Studio 144 venue.
Now that Studio 144 is open, Southampton City Council Leader Simon Letts says that the city has already made a ‘down payment’ with Studio 144 for a 2025 bid, alongside other investment which will be entering the city in the next five years.
Speaking to the Daily Echo, Mr Letts said that a 2025 bid would be led by the young people of Southampton, rather than ‘civil servants’ or ‘artists in their forties and fifties’.
We have waited to choose the optimum moment. When that was confirmed to us that now was the time to go by the man himself that gave us a real push.
Southampton is a changing city. We want that to be recognised on a national level.
James Gough, Head of the Southampton Cultural Trust, has now been asked to conduct a study into the feasibility of putting together a 2025 bid. The study looks set to be completed by the end of the year.
Southampton Conservatives (in opposition to the Labour-led council) and the city’s Business Improvement District have also expressed their full support for a 2025 bid.
An Arts Council England spokesperson told the Echo they would not provide a comment on support for specific City of Culture bids.