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Two thousand jobs if Carlisle's City of Culture bid successful

Carlisle can expect 350,000 visitors who will spend £10 million and create 2,000 jobs – if it is UK City of Culture in 2013.

That is the bold claim accompanying Carlisle’s bid for City of Culture status, due to be submitted today.

Carlisle Renaissance is behind the bid and has given The Cumberland News an outline of its plans. They include reviving the medieval Great Fair, which dates from 1353 and used to be held each August.

There would be a “fire and ice” event transforming the city into a “winter wonderland” with the largest open-air ice rink in England.

Other ideas include “spooky city”, a Cumbrian parade and street carnival “with a twist”, pop concerts and film, music and food festivals. Some events would feature street performers, re-enactors, public art and free runners – a form of acrobatics. Eighty per cent of the programme would be free.

Renaissance chairman Bryan Gray said: “Creating Carlisle’s bid has deepened our understanding of the city’s culture and the enormous potential to do wonderful things. We’ve concentrated on finding out what local people want for and from their city. The result is an exciting programme and robust plan.”

Up to 23 cities are expected to bid for the new title, to be conferred every four years. Birmingham, Bradford, Brighton, Chester, Durham, Hull, Manchester/Salford and Lancaster are among the other declared contenders.

The Government will announce a shortlist in January and the winner in the summer.

Even if Carlisle’s proposal fails, Mr Gray believes it will have been worth the effort.

He said: “Whether Carlisle is successful or not, this is a blueprint for pushing culture higher up the city’s agenda.”

An action plan for cultural development should be ready early in the New Year.

Renaissance estimates that staging City of Culture would cost Carlisle £5.5m, much less than the £10m forecast produced by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Its briefing notes say: “We can deliver a major impact in Carlisle for half of this. Not because we are less ambitious but because we are a compact city that has learned how to make more of less.”

If the bid succeeds, Renaissance will ask for money from the Northwest Regional Development Agency, English Heritage and the Arts Council. Carlisle City Council will act as “financial guarantor” to pick up the bill if necessary.

The council already spends £2m a year on arts, museums and community services. Renaissance says these activities could be “re-focussed” on City of Culture.

Mike Mitchelson, the council’s leader, is optimistic about the bid’s chances.

He said: “It builds on Carlisle’s strengths. We have a lot to offer – a growing university, entrepreneurial spirit, 2,000 years of heritage, thriving music and visual arts sectors.

“We’ve also got great cultural assets including Carlisle Castle, the Cathedral and of course Tullie House.”

The bid goes under the title Carlisle: the Once and Future City, an apparent reference to Arthurian legend. The inscription on King Arthur’s grave is supposed to say: “Here lies Arthur, the once and future king.”

Renaissance’s briefing notes say the bid has three themes – environment, belonging and enterprise – and the notes set out why it is pushing so hard for City of Culture status.

They say: “It will raise awareness of Carlisle and put us on the map for a positive reason.

“It will attract significant visitor spend, growth in the tourism and creative sector, make the city more attractive to investors and settlers, and build the case for investment in cultural facilities.

“Culture is recognised as a powerful regeneration tool.

“Carlisle needs to make a step change in cultural offer to unlock the full economic and social benefits.”

Renaissance says its forecast of 350,000 visitors spending £10m is “conservative”.

It adds: “As well as the economic benefits, there is much to be gained....for local people.

“Greater community cohesion, heightened sense of wellbeing, young people with raised ambitions, and a more vibrant and thriving city overall.”

Despite competition from larger cities, Renaissance believes Carlisle can win.

It points to new developments such as the proposed Roman gallery at Tullie House, the revamp of the Sands Centre, the establishment of the University of Cumbria, the county archives building at Petteril Bank, refurbishment of the Old Town Hall in Greenmarket, two new academy schools and even expansion of Carlisle Airport.

The notes say: “Carlisle is a strong contender because we have a bold vision that has Carlisle, its residents, businesses and visitors at its heart.

“Our proposed cultural programme is creative, unique and makes the most of Carlisle’s unique strengths.”

Renaissance would appoint a creative director, and programme and commercial managers to run City of Culture.

It says it has consulted widely on the plans. Its Love Carlisle diary room, now in the city centre will tour suburbs from next Wednesday.

Renaissance claims too the bid has support from local authorities, businesses, schools and cultural organisations.

However Jim Buchanan, the leader of Cumbria County Council, who is quoted as “one of the backers” said his comments had been taken “totally out of context”.

He added: “The council is doing a lot to promote culture – it always has and will continue to do so – but we are not supporting a City of Culture bid.”

The bid document should be online today at

Have your say

Dont be so negative of course we have a chance of winning the City of Culture award. We have a thriving benefit, alcohol and drugs culture in Carlisle.

Posted by Malcolm Venables on 8 January 2010 at 14:55

Not going to happen.

Posted by JJ on 15 December 2009 at 00:02

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