The bid focuses on the resort towns of Great Yarmouth, Gorleston and Lowestoft which all have centuries of connection with the sea and the world beyond. Exemplars of the great British seaside, they are thriving visitor destinations which continue to welcome millions of visitors each year. These towns are integral to the UK’s renewable energy industry and are also centres of fertile creativity, rich heritage and cultural distinctiveness. Beyond them, there is also a rich heritage and culture – both natural and man-made – from Aldeburgh and the Suffolk coast northwards to Winterton-on-Sea, coastal resorts and inland market towns, the Norfolk Broads and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Great Yarmouth’s cultural offering features everything from street performance and festivals, to the circus and Golden Mile, mediaeval town walls and iconic entertainment venues, as well as fine sands and a fascinating maritime history with links to Nelson and the great herring fleets of the 19th century; while East Suffolk’s picturesque coastal and rural centres host renowned music events with a landscape which has inspired the works of authors, composers, artists and choreographers, and it is the place where each day’s new dawn rises first in the UK.
UK City of Culture 2025 is the first time a collection of linked or neighbouring towns have been eligible to apply together, and the joint bid has won the support of the New Anglia LEP, Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils, Norfolk Community Foundation, Norfolk and Suffolk Chambers of Commerce, the area’s three local MPs and many other major regional public sector stakeholders, arts and community organisations.
The two councils will file an expression of interest by next Monday, July 19. The decision on whether their bid has made it onto the long list will be announced in early September 2021, with the UK City of Culture 2025 winner being announced in May next year.
A successful bid will see the coastal region and its hinterland host a year-long programme of creative events and activities in 2025 to showcase its cultural offers to the world and bring people together with wider benefits felt across Norfolk & Suffolk in relation to the visitor economy. This year’s UK City of Culture 2021 host, Coventry, is anticipated to enjoy an economic boost of around £211 million, with an additional 2.5 million visitors to its region.
Both Great Yarmouth and East Suffolk councils are already committed to comprehensive programmes to attract unprecedented levels of investment into their area’s infrastructure and cultural sectors. Recently, the Government has awarded a total of more than £63m across the two areas by way of the Towns Deal, Heritage Action Zones and Future High Streets Programme funding in Great Yarmouth, Gorleston & Lowestoft.
In July 2020, the borough of Great Yarmouth launched its Culture, Heritage and Tourism strategy up to 2030 as Our Place Is Your Stage, and a number of major, high profile projects are set to come to fruition in the lead up to 2025. As it looks to the future alongside Lowestoft as the UK’s capital of offshore renewable energy, it has robust plans in place to activate its economic recovery by re-inventing its public places whilst retaining a sense of its rich heritage and diversity and tapping into and growing a thriving arts and cultural scene which will support new homes, nurture new jobs, businesses and opportunities to learn and grow.
- The town’s new Marina Centre community leisure complex, currently under construction on the resort’s Golden Mile, will be a major year-round boost to the area and support health and well-being for all over the next 40 years.
- The resort’s iconic Winter Gardens, the UK's last surviving Victorian cast iron and glass pavilion of its type, has just received a £9.9m National Heritage Lottery Fund award towards its restoration which will bring it back into public use as a year-round visitor attraction, making the most of the unique building, its seafront location and its horticultural heritage.
- Work is under way to revitalise the historic Market Place, transforming it into an inviting shopping area fit for the 21st century; and the council has also begun work on a four-year Heritage Action Zone project in conjunction with Historic England and the Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust, involving local people in repairing, conserving and building a better understanding of the historic buildings and sites.
East Suffolk has an equally strong and diverse community with an economy raring to take advantage of opportunities for future growth alongside major economic investment. An area with significant challenges of low social mobility and disadvantage, cultural-led regeneration sits at the heart of the ambitious Town Investment Plan for Lowestoft, with many projects set to be live by 2025. Elsewhere, there is a growing range of cultural and heritage attractions in its market and coastal towns.
- The first ever Cultural Strategy for Lowestoft was launched in October 2020. ‘Celebrating Culture on the Edge’ funded through the Great Places programme is central to bringing forward cultural regeneration and more creative opportunities for the town. The Cultural Leadership Group, in partnership with East Suffolk Council, created the strategy, that includes ten key priorities which strive to make Lowestoft a place where being on the eastern edge of the country is to be celebrated.
- Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth have worked together on two outstanding Cultural Education Partnerships, Lowestoft Rising and Enjoy, to put culture at the heart of learning in both towns and ensure that every child and young person has access to cultural opportunities.
- Lowestoft is one of seven places nationally to have two HAZs in the same town. The HAZs will be delivering exciting cultural programmes over the next three years; while other key projects include the restoration of the former Post Office, partnering with Lowestoft Town Council to bring the Town Hall back into use and working with businesses to uplift the area through a conservation grant programme.
- Place making programmes are underway in East Suffolk’s 12 market towns, working with town councils and stakeholder groups to revitalise town centres by exploring local identity, developing the visitor economy and heritage and cultural offer.
The programme planned for a UK City of Culture 2025 will include everything from visual arts, literature, music, theatre, dance, combined arts, architecture, crafts, design, heritage and the historic and natural environment, to museums, galleries, libraries, the spoken word, film, broadcasting and media, video games, animation, visual and special effects, photography and publishing.
Both communities already have a host of cultural experiences to bring to the mix, from live entertainment, music, circus, maritime and arts festivals and a newly-created summer solstice ‘First Light’ event, to historic sites and buildings, globally-important wildlife areas and inspiring landscapes which are increasingly attracting the attention of the film industry.
Leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, Cllr Carl Smith said: “Our borough and the district of East Suffolk share a very special sense of place and a local distinctiveness which sets us apart as truly unique. We have a connection to the sea and are also both going through a period of considerable change and regeneration as we work towards securing a better future for our communities, with a firm belief in the wealth of benefits that can come from putting culture at the heart of everything we do.
“Our bid will provide ambition for our residents, inspire people and steer them towards engaging with others and creating positive pathways, and this will be more crucial than ever in the challenges ahead for our communities as we work to recover from the effects of the pandemic and forge new opportunities for our young people.We are thrilled to be joining with our close neighbours in bidding to become the UK City of Culture 2025 and look forward to the journey ahead.”
Cllr Steve Gallant, Leader of East Suffolk Council, said: “This is an incredibly exciting opportunity for East Suffolk and Great Yarmouth and will reflect our continuing hard work to ensure the highest quality of life possible for everyone living, working and visiting our part of the East of England.
“We are fortunate to have a rich tapestry of cultural diversity right across East Suffolk and we are delighted to join forces with our friends at Great Yarmouth in this bid. Becoming City of Culture 2025 will bring real change, huge opportunities and significant benefits to our communities and will enable us to showcase all that we have to offer.”