Durham may have missed out on being named UK City of Culture – but that hasn’t stopped the county developing ambitious plans to cement its place as the “culture county”. PETER BARRON reports
IF a mark of strength is how you bounce back from disappointment, Durham is a county in very good shape indeed…
Naturally, there was regret that Durham missed out on the UK City of Culture title earlier this summer after a captivating campaign that shone a bright light on the county’s incredible people, places and ideas.
But Durham is a proud, resilient, positive county, and it has used the momentum created by the bid to establish itself as the “culture county”.
Within 24 hours of the result being announced at the end of May, Councillor Elizabeth Scott, Durham County Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy and Partnerships, defiantly declared: “We couldn’t have a better platform to build on than we have now.”
She described the City of Culture experience as “galvanizing” and said it showed the county was right to be bold. Irrespective of the result, it would be a springboard to take Durham to new heights as a place where people want to live, work, learn, invest and visit from near and far.
Already this summer, Durham has again proved itself to be a winner with a series of hugely successful events across the county. Bishop Auckland and Seaham Food Festivals, Durham Brass Festival, Durham Fringe Festival, and Durham City Run Festival were part of a packed programme that underlined the breadth of the county’s appeal.
The partners behind the Durham 2025 campaign – Durham County Council, Durham University, and Culture Durham – are committed to developing ambitious plans that will ensure culture is at the heart of a prosperous future for the county.
Full details remain under wraps for now, but a pioneering ‘culture county’ programme is taking shape. Developments of international importance, along with initiatives at the heart of communities, will attract visitors from around the world, deliver thousands of jobs, and improve wellbeing.
The plans will gather pace en route to 2025 – the year that Durham will celebrate the global bicentenary of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, as well as host the National Astronomy Meeting.
Alongside a vibrant programme of festivals and events, there will be investment in major developments at cultural attractions across the county too, and a series of capital projects. Highlights will include:
- The redevelopment of the former Durham Light Infantry Museum and Durham Art Gallery into a contemporary gallery and exhibition space.
- The £5.9m development of New Hall at Locomotion in Shildon, telling the story of County Durham’s role in the global railway story which will see the world’s largest collection of historic rail vehicles in one place.
- The return of Lumiere, the UK’s leading light festival, in 2023.
- The continuing transformation of Bishop Auckland’s fortunes following the opening of the Spanish Gallery, reopening of Auckland Castle, and spectacular success of Kynren.
- The Remaking Beamish project, adding a 1950s town and farm that will bring a new era to the iconic museum.
- The creation of The Story, a new dedicated history centre on the outskirts of Durham City, housing six miles of archives, heritage collections, and registration services, together with a café and exhibition space.
Backed by anticipated investment from the BBC and Arts Council England, there is no question that culture will remain central to driving economic growth, energising communities, and levelling up the region.
Durham is unashamedly proud to look back to its wonderful past – and it is justifiably excited about what the future holds as the culture county.
To find out more visit www.durham2025.co.uk
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