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Wrexham City of Culture bid must be separated from ‘controversial’ city status plans

02 Dec 2021 3 minutes Read
Wrexham. Picture by Kenneth Allen (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Liam Randall, local democracy reporter

Wrexham’s bid to win the title of UK City of Culture 2025 must be separated from controversial plans to upgrade the town’s status, a senior councillor has said.

In October, Wrexham was one of eight places in the UK long-listed to become the next city of culture, with four other areas of Wales missing out.

Bookmakers have made Wrexham the joint-favourite to replace current hosts Coventry alongside the local government district of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon in Northern Ireland.

However, the leader of the Conservative group on Wrexham Council is concerned the application to hold a year of cultural festivities could be tarnished. It comes as the local authority looks set to enter an unrelated competition to gain city status despite opposition in some quarters.

Cllr Hugh Jones, the council’s lead member for people, said it was not necessary for Wrexham to become a city to earn the cultural title as regions and towns have been invited to apply.

Speaking at a media briefing held earlier this week, he said: “We’ve made it very clear that the two are totally and utterly separate. There is no link at all between the two.

“The only common feature is the word city but apart from that there is no link or relationship.

“We know that city status is controversial but the fact that all the groups on the council are supporting this bid is evidence that this is something that the whole of Wrexham wanted to see happen.

“I’m not tempting fate but if you if you look at the betting odds, we are the joint-favourites and I think that demonstrates the strength of the bid.

“There is a significant benefit for Wrexham if this comes off as Coventry have benefited by £15.5m and in Hull there were 800 jobs created and significant financial, tourism and business benefits.”

‘Spiritual home’

City of Culture is a competition run by the UK Government’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport every four years.

Wrexham was announced as the only area of Wales on the longlist of bidders by Nadine Dorries, Minister for Culture.

The council has been awarded £40,000 to support the further development of its bid, with executive board members also being asked to back the use of £50,000 of the authority’s own money for an event connected to the application.

Cllr Jones said Wrexham’s moniker of “the spiritual home of Welsh football” would be used to drive the bid, along with highlighting the cultural significance of the Welsh language.

He said: “This is part of levelling-up in a real sense in terms of the community.

“If we look at our vision for City of Culture, we focus on Wrexham being the centre of trade and events in north Wales, the UK capital of play, the home of football in Wales and leaders in innovation, as well as our Welsh language and heritage and our cultural diversity.

“The important thing to understand is this a Wrexham county borough bid and is aimed at benefiting the whole of the county borough.”

Executive board members will be asked to support proposals surrounding the City of Culture bid when they meet on Tuesday (December 7, 2021).

The shortlist will be announced in March next year, with the winner being crowned in May.

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