Southampton means 'promise and hope' says poet bidding for City of Culture title

WATCH: Andrew Pate reports on what winning the City of Culture bid means for some of those who live in and around the city

A poet who is one of the faces of Southampton's City of Culture bid says his hometown means promise and hope.

Issa Loyann Farah-Kelly says: "Southampton in a nutshell, it's home, but it's more than that. It's not just my past. It's something of my future as well.

"I think we're all moulded in a sense by the environment in which we grew. Southampton to me means, particularly in the sense of the bid, it means a bit of hope, a bit of promise."

Recalling his memories of skateboarding around the Bargate as a teenager, he says being part of the bid has been a special journey.

Poet Issa Loyann Farah-Kelly has been moulded by his youth in Southampton Credit: ITV News Meridian

"These steps I sat on literally 21-plus years ago. I've sat on them all the hours of the day and night. In all types of contemplative states, in various arenas of my life trajectory. Now I'm sitting on them feeling a sense of contentment and quiet pride. You never know where life may take you."

Southampton has made it to the final of the competition to be UK City of Culture 2025, alongside Bradford, County Durham and Wrexham, with the winner due to be announced later this month.

The finalists were whittled down from a record 20 initial bids to eight outstanding longlist applications which also included Cornwall, Derby, Stirling and Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon.

All bids were asked to explain how they would use culture to grow and strengthen their local area, as well as how they would use culture to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A decision will be announced later this month Credit: ITV News Meridian

The benefits of winning include attracting millions of pounds in additional investment to help boost regeneration, a year in the cultural spotlight with hundreds of events encouraging long-lasting participation in the arts, and growth for local tourism.

Louise Govier says Southampton already has great cultural programmes and projects, but feels winning the title would turbo charge all of that.

Her organisation, Artswork, helps children and young people find their voice and fulfill their potential through doing creative things.

She says the win would bring a huge range of cultural activity. "Some of them are massive, mass participation projects on the water. Actually being part of the water and having access to the water is something we know people really want in Southampton.

Louise Govier says a win would bring opportunities large and small Credit: ITV News Meridian

"There are also really small intimate things that would happen in shops and people's homes and then be shared much more widely. So I think there would be a huge range of cultural activity, quite a lot of it free, that people could really get involved with."

Southampton's bid is priding itself on bringing together all forms of culture, for people from all backgrounds, for the benefit of the city and the local area.

Lynda Walton is a bid ambassador on the Holyrood estate in the city centre.

A keen gardener, she is hoping the bid will lead to more opportunities for everyone.

Lynda Walton is a keen gardener and bid ambassador Credit: ITV News Meridian

"Through the City of Culture there's going to be massive opportunity to have small gardening groups right through the city, and allotments as well.

"That would be ideal because of the price of fruit and veg, and the scarcity there may be later on. For me, to garden gets me away from my activities, my work, my laptop and join in with others, doing something physical.

"You don't have to think of anything else. Nothing expect gardening and chatting and a cup of tea and a biscuit later. Wonderful."