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City of Culture

Volume 491: debated on Monday 20 April 2009

I have set up a working group, chaired by Phil Redmond. The group’s remit is to consider what the vision for a UK city of culture should look like, the criteria for eligibility and how the bidding process might work. The working assumption is that the first UK city of culture could be in 2013 and would work on a four-year cycle.

I am anxious that the criteria—whatever they are—do not discriminate against newer cities such as my own, Milton Keynes. I urge my right hon. Friend to ensure that the criteria allow a bid, which could build on the marriage of Milton Keynes’s history with the varied heritage of the large numbers of communities that have moved into the city from elsewhere in the UK and from abroad.

I hear what my hon. Friend says. I attended one of the meetings of the working group I mentioned, and I can assure her that the consensus around the table was that we should work with the broadest possible definition of city of culture, which would allow as many parts of the country as possible to join the competition.

This UK city of culture proposal has real potential, as we saw in Liverpool last year when there was an £800 million boost to the regional economy. More than anything, the association with culture gave the whole city a lift and brought some real civic pride to Liverpool. We will pursue the proposal carefully, but we believe that it has real potential for areas all around the country, not just for the larger cities.