Tour guides welcome longlisting of Southampton in City of Culture 2025

Tour guide Martin Brisland, in red, leads a Park Walk in Southampton

A group of tour guides in Southampton have welcomed the news that the city is on the longlist of twenty places bidding to be the UK City of Culture for 2025.

The competition, held every four years, is organised by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in collaboration with the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This time round entrants have been asked to prove that they can ‘put culture at the heart of their plans to recover from the impact of the pandemic’. 

The winning location will be announced next year, and will take the mantle from Coventry which is the UK City of Culture 2021. According to the DCMS the winner of the title typically attracts millions of visitors, major investment and an opportunity to bring its communities together to showcase their area, not just to the UK, but to the world.

Having kept business going during the pandemic by using a variety of measures, the ten tour guides belonging to the See Southampton tour guiding association in Hampshire say they are thrilled to hear that their city is in the running for the special status. The group’s chairman said the city has plenty to offer.

Over the past year or so when they were not able to conduct tours in person, like many other businesses the collective decided to innovate.

They carried out activities such as online talks, virtual tours, posted videos, conducted podcasts and radio programmes as well as hosting a number of social media pages detailing the history and culture of Southampton.

Tour guide Katie Belo Dos Santos hosting an online talk with the Alresford Historical and Literary Society

Tour guide, Katie Belo Dos Santos, from 'See Southampton' said she had enjoyed some of the newer ways of sharing her knowledge with local staycationers and tourists alike, and she will continue to use some of the virtual and online tools she used during the pandemic.

As things started to reopen, the group also carried out tours for people on electric-bikes.

This Summer the guides started to conduct tours in person once again. One of the groups to take part was the Alresford Historical and Literary Society. Members took part in an online talk with guide, Katie Belo Dos Santos, on one evening and then on another day in the same week they took part in a guided tour and parks walk with guide, Martin Brisland.

Back in July, the director of the Southampton City of Culture 2025 bid, Claire Whitaker OBE, spoke about support from neighbouring towns and cities in the South.

The contest is an opportunity for regeneration through culture and cultural activities. According to the DCMS, Coventry, the current City of Culture 2021 has attracted £100 million of capital investment so far to support cultural projects.

In Hull, the City of Culture 2017, there were more than 5.3 million visits to over 2,800 events, cultural activities, installations and exhibitions that year. Figures showed that more than nine-in-ten residents took part in at least one cultural activity. The next step in the selection process for City of Culture 2025 is for the twenty shortlisted places to complete their full applications by the end of January 2022. At some time around March next year, there will be official visits to the shortlisted places, with the overall winner due to be announced in May 2022.

The twenty shortlisted areas are:

  • Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon

  • The City of Bangor and Northwest Wales

  • The Borderlands region, comprising Dumfries and Galloway, Scottish Borders, Northumberland, Cumbria and Carlisle City

  • Bradford

  • Conwy County in Wales

  • Cornwall

  • Derby

  • County Durham

  • Lancashire

  • Medway

  • City of Newport

  • Powys

  • Southampton

  • Stirling

  • The Tay Cities region

  • Torbay and Exeter

  • Wakefield District

  • City of Wolverhampton

  • Wrexham County Borough

  • Great Yarmouth & East Suffolk