Lancs culture bid lodged minus county-level support

The bid team seeking to make Lancashire the UK City of Culture 2025 has submitted its expression of interest, despite the county council withdrawing £22m of support.

The Lancashire 2025 bid was lodged shortly before yesterday’s deadline and retains the support of councils in Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool and Preston and the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership.

Alan Vincent, deputy leader of Lancashire County Council, confirmed at the end of June that the authority would not underwrite the bid as it “created too great a financial risk to the council at a time when there are significant pressures on services,” naming the Covid pandemic as one of the main factors.

However, the other partners have decided to press on with a bid they describe as a first and as county-wide, having worked for three years on it to this point.

Tony Attard, chair of Lancashire 2025, said his team are “hugely grateful” for the support of the councils, adding: “The vision for Lancashire’s bid is so compelling, and arguably more pertinent now than ever, we simply could not give up on it.

“Now that our expression of interest is in, we will continue to work with partners across the county to ensure that we maximise the profile that being part of this competition can bring.”

Cllr Mohammed Khan, leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “The bid will be focused on projects we know can add resilience and capacity to a cultural sector still reeling from the impacts of the pandemic.”

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport is expected to reach a decision on which bids will be long-listed in September. The teams responsible will then each receive £40,000 to develop their full bid.

The UK City of Culture programme was set up by the government to build on the success of Liverpool’s year as the European Capital of Culture in 2008. Coventry is the City of Culture for 2021.

A further cultural project also in the works in the area is a plan to create a linear park across four local authority areas along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.

A feasibility study is currently looking at the benefits and costs of linking developments and projects described as a “string of pearls” across Blackburn with Darwen, Hyndburn, Burnley and Pendle.