Sir David Amess: Southend given ‘huge boost’ after city status as bid for City of Culture mooted

Credit: PA

Southend’s new city status, in honour of murdered MP Sir David Amess, has “given everyone a huge boost”, according to his successor one year after his death. 

Anna Firth MP even suggested Southend could bid for the UK City of Culture in 2029. 

The 69-year-old father-of-five was stabbed to death while meeting constituents at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on 15 October 2021.

After spending many years campaigning for Southend to be granted city status, he was posthumously made the city’s first freeman at a ceremony attended by the Prince of Wales in March.

Anna Firth, who was elected as MP for Southend West in February, said: "Civic pride is important and it's given everybody a focus because what we all want to do now is to make the city of Southend the city that he would have been proud of."

"We're all coming together and working out ways in which we can take Southend forward.

"Just one of the suggestions which I've come up with is that we go for UK City of Culture in 2029 because culture was really important to Sir David and he led the charge for Southend to be UK City of Culture in 2017 and we didn't get it.

"We missed out to Hull.

"So, what better legacy than for us to fulfil his dream and make us not only a city but a City of Culture?"

She said that bids would begin in "two or three years' time" but "to be bid-ready you want to completely up your game".

Anna Firth MP for Southend West was elected in February 2022. Credit: PA

She said there was a "fantastic inaugural city concert" earlier in the year as a tribute to Sir David.

"We're thinking possibly of a new maritime museum and we're looking at all aspects of the city and the culture and the theatre that we have, and working out ways in which we can make that gearshift to an actual national, international offering," said Ms Firth.

John Lamb, chairman of the Southend West Conservative Association, said that Sir David would be "over the moon" that Southend had become a city and the status had "brought a lot of pride".

Southend is also popular for its beach Credit: PA

"You don't see everything that's actually come about through city status but in fact it is building," said Mr Lamb, 74.

"We've seen multinational businesses who want to move into the town, bring the investment."

He said that the "whole town is changing and for the good reasons".

Mr Lamb said that, after achieving city status for Southend, Sir David would  have been looking forward.

"Now he'd be working on 'what's the next thing that Southend needs? Let's get that going'," he said. "He would be determined to move that forward for us."

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