Conwy wants to make UK City of Culture bid
Jez Hemming, local democracy reporter
A plan to make Conwy the centrepiece of a UK City of Culture bid is to be unveiled by the council.
Conwy will be the “flagship” town in the council’s expression of interest (EOI) in the scheme which would start from 2025. If successful “a spectacular cultural programme” is being promised to celebrate.
Areas, cities or communities can now bid for the four-yearly honour, currently held by Coventry, and the idea will be discussed at this evening’s (Wednesday’s) Conwy county council economy and place scrutiny committee.
The “hub” of the application will be Conwy’s 13th-century castle and walls, a Unesco World Heritage site.
The man behind the plan, Gwrych Castle saviour and Conwy county council culture spokesman Cllr Mark Baker, is hoping the international attention afforded the county during lockdown will help swing the decision in its favour.
While the pandemic shut down many normal ways of doing things, it gave the county a worldwide media platform with events such as the NHS Choir performance of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ at Venue Cymru.
Videos of Llandudno’s famous Great Orme goats roaming deserted streets and the I’m a Celebrity TV series, filmed at Gwrych, also attracted international coverage.
It’s understood the bid would use all the county’s historic and contemporary assets to try and sway the expert advisory panel, which will be choosing the successful candidate.
It will be looking for applicants to “articulate a vision which uses culture to transform a place through social, cultural and economic regeneration, making it more attractive to live, work, visit and invest in”.
Cllr Baker said: “It’s an exciting opportunity for the county and region to come together in the post-Covid recovery.
“We are aiming for this 2025 date which is set by UK Government and we want to give something back to our communities and tourists.
“We want to bring something special in and we see this as the glue to pull our ideas and amazing sites together. It’s very early days and it’s the first step in a long process,” he added.
For the first time groups of towns are able to join together and apply for UK City of Culture status, widening the scope of entries and making Conwy’s bid a more realistic one.
The plan is the centrepiece of the county’s culture strategy which seeks to maximise exposure and visitor potential for the region, already boosted by a burgeoning adventure tourism and outdoor pursuits sector.
The county already hosts more than 400 international, national and home-grown events each year and it’s understood there are some major innovative digital performance projects planned.
It is understood Llanrwst, Abergele, Llandudno and Colwyn Bay will also play major parts in the bid.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands expressions of interest for the award need to be in by July 19, after which a list of six places, to be chosen by September, will have until next January to finalise their bids.
Visits to shortlisted destinations by the advisory panel, chaired by Sir Phil Redmond, will then take place early next year – with the winner announced in May.
The focus of the authority’s strategy is around putting “culture-led regeneration at the heart of forward planning”.
It would see the council working with partner organisations to “realise the benefits of culture-for-wellbeing and support town centre renewal”.
Aberconwy MS Janet Finch-Saunders has also thrown her weight behind the idea saying the proposal has her “wholehearted support”.
She added: “A successful bid would show the world how culturally distinctive Conwy county truly is, with a flourishing arts scene and world-beating heritage sites.
“With our region widely known as the adventure capital of Wales, this event would help to draw visitors to our heritage sites and ensure a more prosperous future for all.”