UK City of Culture 2017, what any bidder should know….
The Government recently announced that it will launch a competition to find the UK’s City of Culture 2017. We welcome this continued commitment towards a competition which was launched following Liverpool’s success as European Capital of Culture in 2008. Here, we share our thoughts on what potential bidders might need to be thinking about before embarking on the process.
We managed the bidding and assessment process in 2010 which selected the UK’s first City of Culture for 2013.
Derry-Londonderry won against stiff competition. Some might have been cynical about the city’s suitability to host the inaugural City of Culture year, however their excellent, well considered bid stood them in good stead for success. The commitment, drive and enthusiasm of the entire team shone throughout the bidding process and the award was thoroughly deserved.
The city has made good progress in what has been a difficult climate. The programme is well developed and a strong team is in place. It has already secured the honour of hosting the Turner Prize next year, which some would argue is the most important event in the UK’s contemporary art calendar. This will be the third time that this event has been moved away from Tate Britain, and the first time it has been held outside England. In the build up to their year in the spotlight, the city will also play a major part in the London 2012 Festival, the nationwide celebration of culture that runs alongside the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
We have no doubt that Derry-Londonderry will benefit greatly from the prize of hosting the first UK City of Culture year, attracting new visitors to the city for the first time. The Turner prize exhibition alone usually attracts between 70,000 and 90,000 visitors. When the event was held in Liverpool in 2007 as part of the city’s European Capital of Culture celebrations 71,000 people visited it. Overall, the Liverpool Culture Company reported that the economic benefit of the title was £800 million. Derry-Londonderry’s bid estimated that UK City of Culture could lead to additional Gross Value Added (GVA) of £40 million between 2010 and 2013 .
Time will tell what the true impact will be for Derry-Londonderry. The UK City of Culture year should provide a real boost to the local economy in 2013. More importantly, there are potentially longer-lasting benefits resulting from profile-raising, closer community ties and a stronger creative industries sector.
As potential bidders start to think about whether they might want to take part in the next bidding round, it is also interesting to note that past bidding cities such as Birmingham and Durham have been confident about the benefits of taking part. New cultural partnerships and strategies have been developed which most likely would not have occurred otherwise.
It is a highly competitive process and the winner is likely to face many challenges in bidding and implementing a successful UK City of Culture year, the experience of others does suggest that there are significant benefits, even for those locations which are unsuccessful.
So, with this in mind, what’s the advice from our involvement in the 2013 bidding process? Although the details of the bidding process have yet to be confirmed, here are our thoughts:
- Start thinking about your bid early on. If the previous contest is anything to go by, it is likely to be highly competitive. The more time you can give to your proposals the better. Start thinking about possible partners you might want to join forces with early on and get them to sign-up to the bid in principle.
- Stick to a well thought out vision and key messages. What is the step change you want to achieve and what are the existing strengths of your area which you can build upon? Clarity of vision can be difficult when there are a broad range of stakeholders involved. It is important that ideas aren’t watered down in the process of trying to be something to everyone.
- Be distinctive. Build on what is special about your area and what could generate the greatest impact for visitors. This will make your bid stand out from others and will help to generate the greatest economic results for your area.
- Are your ideas credible and deliverable? The UK City of Culture assessors will be looking to see that ideas are realistic and well thought out, with strong consideration given to potential risks, funding and management structures. Bearing in mind that the award is unlikely to come with a guaranteed cash prize, funding is likely to be one of the biggest challenges and early consideration of potential partners, including the role of national bodies will be important.
- Strong leadership is fundamental to a successful bid. One organisation should be prepared to be accountable and take responsibility for leading the bid. The lead body will need to demonstrate drive and commitment to succeed in order to achieve success. However, behind the strong leadership there must be a robust and real partnership. A real sense of “strong team” is what is needed
- Be absolutely clear on the potential benefits of any bid. The assessment process will no doubt be looking for bidders to clearly and convincingly demonstrate that the plans will deliver a real step change within any area. This will lead to economic and social benefits which would not otherwise take place. In particular, any potential bidders will need to think about how local communities can be involved and how they might benefit.
We welcome the news that the Government has announced another bidding round for UK City of Culture and will confirm timescales later this year. It provides a good opportunity to put localism into practice and hopefully benefit many local communities as a result. This is a fantastic opportunity for UK cities which think they have the commitment and drive to secure this prestigious prize, however it is not for the faint hearted!
Regeneris Consulting was appointed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to manage the bidding and assessment process which selected the UK’s first City of Culture which will be held next year. As well as being involved in assessing bids, Regeneris regularly works with clients in developing bid proposals. If you would like to find out more, contact Margaret Collins on 0207 608 7204 or Neil Evans on 0161 234 9910.