Businesses, community groups and civic leaders are celebrating Stoke-on-Trent being named as a finalist for the UK City of Culture 2021 title.
The news sees the city edge one step closer to scooping the coveted accolade, after an announcement by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
There are just five cities left in the competition – Stoke-on-Trent, Coventry, Paisley, Sunderland and Swansea – after six others failed to make it through to the final round.
The winner will be announced at the end of the year.
Hull holds the title of UK City of Culture for 2017, and the designation has seen 6,400 jobs created in the city in five years; a £3.3bn investment since 2013; and increased the number of visitors to the East Yorkshire city.
Stoke-on-Trent's bid was led by the city council, supported by partners including Staffordshire University, Keele University, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, the Local Enterprise Partnership, The Sentinel, arts organisations across the city - as well as other residents and businesses.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council leader Dave Conway said: “This is fantastic news – everyone has worked so hard to get to this stage, it has really galvanised the city.”
The announcement on the shortlisted cities follows a meeting of the UK City of Culture independent advisory panel.John Glen, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism said: “We have received strong bids from across the UK and now have a fantastic shortlist of five that reflect the diversity and cultural ambition of our towns and cities.
“I want to congratulate all eleven bids which offered brilliant examples of how to celebrate their own unique culture and heritage, and showed just how prestigious and coveted the UK City of Culture is.
“The strength of the competition showed us how valuable our cultural assets are to our towns, boosting tourism and jobs in local communities. I have seen first-hand how Hull has embraced its status as City of Culture 2017, and how beneficial it has been for the area. I am looking forward to seeing what will come in 2021.”
Phil Redmond, Chair of the UK City of Culture panel said: "The quality, commitment and enthusiasm that came across from the eleven bidders made deciding a shortlist to recommend to Ministers as difficult as it was for the two previous UK City of Culture competitions. The appetite for using culture to bring about regeneration and to strengthen communities is clearly stronger than ever.
"Overall the panel thought that five cities' bids showed the potential to deliver a UK City of Culture 2021 programme. I want to thank all eleven bidders for all their work and look forward to final bids from Coventry, Paisley, Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland and Swansea later this year."
Paul Williams, who is part of the bid team, said: “This is the best news. Winning is a wonderful opportunity for Stoke-on-Trent to change the way it is viewed within the UK and to accelerate the growth of the local economy. The bid for UK City of Culture 2021 is for the whole city and neighbouring areas and it shows what we can do collectively. We now call on everyone to really back the bid and believe that we can win and deliver an amazing transformational year for the city.”
Keele University pro vice-chancellor David Amigoni, who is chair of the bid’s cultural forum, said: “Stoke-on-Trent is a unique place, and has so much to be proud of. We are surrounded by culture and people don’t have to look far to experience it for themselves. There are so many interesting and exciting experiences taking place in the city and this is why we believe we should quite rightly be a strong contender for the UK City of Culture 2021 title.”
Susan Clarke is part of the bid team. She is Artistic Director for B arts, which last month was successfully awarded National Portfolio Organisation status by Arts Council England. Susan said: “Getting to this stage is the result of much hard work by many people coming together, all to benefit the city. It shows the special artistic quality in Stoke-on-Trent and it’s inspiring to see people already being so much more ambitious than they ever would have been before. The bid is definitely bringing out the best of the city’s creatives and we want to grow and nurture that for the final round and beyond. Go Stoke-on-Trent!”
A judging panel is expected to visit the city in September and a final bid will be submitted by the end of September. The bid team will also present to a panel in Hull and the winner will be decided and announced in Hull in late November or early December.