Cornwall has submitted its ambitious bid to become the first rural area to win UK City of Culture 2025, saying it would be a huge boost for a region that urgently needs investment to close the gap with the rest of the UK.
The bid, Cornwall 2025 – Leading from the Edge, is a call to action to address the climate emergency by using culture and creativity to connect communities across Cornwall with audiences around the world on the themes of People, Place and Planet. With millions of Cornish diaspora across the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, Cornwall is pitching a ‘Global Britain’ year-long celebration of Cornish culture to excite, inspire and explore global issues, from plastic pollution to climate change. And it will forge new creative connections across the Four Nations of the UK, tapping into a rich seam of Celtic heritage. The bid also wants to change perceptions of Cornwall, which attracts over four million visitors a year.
The natural beauty from which so much of the Cornwall’s celebrated culture and creativity has sprung over the centuries, masks deep-rooted deprivation in what remains one of the poorest parts of England. Almost a third (27%) of employees earn below the real living wage. Submission of the bid has coincided with publication this week of the Government’s Levelling Up White Paper, which aims to bring prosperity to every part of the UK. When measured by wages and productivity, Cornwall is the poorest of the eight regions left in the race to be City of Culture 2025.
The bid says City of Culture status would generate £119m of direct benefit to Cornwall’s economy and create almost 500 jobs, while continuing to grow Cornwall’s burgeoning creative industries sector. The long-term economic benefits could run into hundreds of millions of pounds, some £870m in total. The bid has the backing of creative champions across Cornwall and beyond, ranging from actor and author Dawn French, to lyricist Sir Tim Rice, Olympic rower Helen Glover, broadcaster Petroc Trelawney and Director of Tate, Maria Balshaw.
Bid partners include the Eden Project, Tate St Ives, and Falmouth University.
Cornwall’s bid is being led by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), a business-led body with a remit to strengthen the local economy, create jobs and improve skills. It is backing the bid with a newly announced £1m investment in Cornwall’s cultural and creative industries.
LEP chief executive and Cornwall 2025 bid champion, Glenn Caplin-Grey, said: “We’re putting £1m on the table because we recognise how culture is a catalyst for investment in places to drive economic growth and tackle social exclusion. The culture and the creative industries are a massive social and economic opportunity for Cornwall, and being UK City of Culture would be a huge boost for jobs and skills in a region that needs investment to close the gap with the rest of the UK.
“What is really exciting about our bid is how Cornwall 2025 will facilitate collaborations between art and technology to tell the story of how our environment has shaped our history and culture. Most importantly, it will be a call to action about how we all need to change to address the environment crisis. In many ways this an issue that effects every community around the world and that’s why Cornwall 2025 has really caught the imagination. Our bid will showcase all that is splann about Cornwall, and we hope everyone will get behind it, Onan Hag Oll – one and all.”
As one of the poorest parts of the UK, Cornwall has seen sustained public investment in its digital infrastructure for many years, making it one of the best connected rural areas in Europe.
The bid will leverage this connectivity to create a cultural programme bringing together local communities and audiences from around the world, while tapping into Cornwall’s diverse and fast-growing creative industries sector, which numbers more than 2,000 businesses employing almost 6,000 people, making the area comparable with many cities.
The bid involves a range of cultural partners including the world-famous Eden Project, Tate St Ives and Falmouth University – one of the leading arts universities in the UK. It is pioneering the use of creative technologies like gaming and augmented reality for use across a range of industries. And with experience of hosting millions of annual visitors and world-class events, including last year’s G7 summit, Cornwall is confident its bid can showcase what is best about Cornwall and provide a cultural response to the environmental challenges that affect everyone.
Cornwall City of Culture 2025 would include a year-long programme of over 1,200 events directly engaging over 400,000 people, with a live audience of 1.4m and millions more online. The global broadcast audience is estimated at 1.6 billion. Organisers are promising four as yet unrevealed ‘standstill moments’ across the year ‘to make national and international audiences stop and stare’. These would avoid Cornwall’s peak holiday season to spread activity throughout the year and encourage future off-season visits.
A comprehensive community events programme will involve every parish in Cornwall and every school. Details of the cultural programme will be released in the coming weeks. An economic impact assessment to support the bid has calculated that City of Culture would generate £119m of direct benefits to Cornwall’s economy, create over 460 direct jobs and safeguard almost 1,200 more. More than 2,500 small businesses would benefit. The long-term impacts would be much more significant, with an estimated total impact of around £870 million over 25 years. This would come from a sustained uplift in annual visitors outside peak season, ongoing capital investment in cultural places and spaces, improved skills and education, and investment in technology.
Cornwall is one of just eight regions still in the running for the four-yearly City of Culture competition and submitted its bid to the department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport yesterday [Feb 2], before the midnight deadline. A final shortlist is expected to March, with the winner announced in May 2022.
Why we’re backing Cornwall’s bid
Actor and writer Dawn French, who lives in Cornwall and is Chancellor of Falmouth University, one of the leading arts universities in the UK and a key partner in Cornwall’s bid, said: “Falmouth University is at the heart of Cornwall’s bid to be UK City of Culture in 2025. That’s so important, as our young people and our young creatives will be the architects of an enterprising, inclusive and exciting future. While everyone knows how fantastic Cornwall is as a place to visit, not everyone is aware of the great cultural pedigree the region has, or how it is a hotbed of new talent, particularly in areas such as the digital and screen industries, where creativity meets new technology. Winning UK City of Culture would be a great opportunity to tell and retell the story of what makes Cornwall so brilliant.”
World-renowned lyricist, author and Cornwall resident Sir Tim Rice, whose credits include Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Chess, Aladdin and the Lion King, is backing Cornwall’s bid. In 2021 Sir Tim co-wrote a song called Gee Seven to mark the G7 summit coming to Cornwall. It received its world première in Truro Cathedral performed by the Truro Cathedral Choir and was eventually sung by 27,000 young voices in 31 countries to the G7 leaders. Sir Tim said: “Cornwall has such raw energy and creative ingenuity. I would love to see this channelled, barely tamed, into the year-long celebration that City of Culture would bring, drawing together our communities, young people and visitors, and enabling Cornwall’s cultural brilliance to be recognised and enjoyed way beyond the boundaries of this beautiful south-western outpost.”
Cornish broadcaster Petroc Trelawney said: “I am very excited about Cornwall’s bid for City of Culture 2025. Too many people, both here and across the Tamar, underestimate the cultural wealth ingrained in Cornwall. I was raised on the rich variety of art the county sustains – and I am ever stimulated and rewarded by it today. From world class-chamber music to thrilling visual art, from theatre that nurtures thought to a trad music scene that is continually reinventing itself, Cornwall has it all. With stunning light, open skies and sea, brilliant talent, and a knack for hosting and hospitality, Cornwall is a natural home to the arts. We should be shouting more loudly about what is going on here. Winning the City of Culture bid would shine a bright light on a place where the arts are open to one and all.”
Helen Glover MBE, double Olympic rowing champion and triple world champion, who was born in Cornwall and grew up in Penzance, said: “From gig rowing to rugby, sport is a vital part of Cornwall’s culture, and we’ve shown we can stage world class events like last year’s Tour of Britain. City of Culture status would be a huge boost for the county and I wish the bid every success.”
Maria Balshaw, Director of Tate and Chair of the National Museum Directors’ Council, said: “Tate St Ives has always celebrated Cornwall’s unique place in history, as a point of connection and exchange for many of the most innovative modern artists from across Britain and around the world. The legacy of those exchanges lives on today, inspiring new generations of artists and visitors, as well as fuelling a vibrant creative community in the region. Tate is proud to be part of that community and we would be delighted to use our national and international platform to help Cornwall achieve its ambitions for 2025 and beyond.”
Linda Taylor, Leader of Cornwall Council added: “Cornwall has a track record of putting on global events and welcoming guests from around the UK and the world. Last year’s Tour of Britain cycle race and G7 summit demonstrated what a great host Cornwall would make for UK City of Culture in 2025. The bid includes something for everyone and if successful, will be a great opportunity for communities all across Cornwall to engage in culture throughout the year.”
Sir Howard Panter, world-renowned theatre owner and producer, with over 40 years of experience in the arts and entertainment industry, said: “Cornwall is such a magnet for creatives and one of the most beautiful natural stages for performance. City of Culture would give Cornwall the cultural recognition it deserves and an opportunity for people at home and Cornish diaspora around the world to unite in shared experiences.