Cornwall submits 'ambitious' bid for City of Culture to become first rural area to win

The Man Engine, Penzance. Credit: Greg Martin

Cornwall has submitted its 'ambitious' bid to become the first rural area to win UK City of Culture 2025 - saying it would be a huge boost for a region which urgently needs investment to close the gap with the rest of the UK.

The bid, 'Cornwall 2025 - Leading from the Edge', is a call to action to address the climate emergency. It hopes to use culture and creativity to connect communities across Cornwall with audiences around the world on the themes of People, Place and Planet.

The bid also wants to change perceptions of Cornwall, which attracts more than four million visitors a year.

The natural beauty from which Cornwall's celebrated culture and creativity has sprung over the centuries, masks deep-rooted deprivation in what remains one of the poorest parts of England - a third of employees earning below the real living wage.

Tate St Ives, Silver Ball.

When measured by wages and productivity, Cornwall is the poorest of the eight regions left in the race to be City of Culture 2025.

The bid says City of Culture status would generate £119m of direct benefit to Cornwall's economy and create almost 500 jobs, while continuing to grow Cornwall's creative industries sector.

The long-term economic benefits could run into hundreds of millions of pounds, some £870m in total.

LEP Chief Executive and Cornwall 2025 bid champion, Glenn Caplin-Grey, said: "We're putting £1m on the table because we recognise how culture is a catalyst for investment in places to drive economic growth and tackle social exclusion.

"The culture and the creative industries are a massive social and economic opportunity for Cornwall, and being UK City of Culture would be a huge boost for jobs and skills in a region that needs investment to close the gap with the rest of the UK.

"What is really exciting about our bid is how Cornwall 2025 will facilitate collaborations between art and technology to tell the story of how our environment has shaped our history and culture.

"Most importantly, it will be a call to action about how we all need to change to address the environment crisis. In many ways this an issue that effects every community around the world and that's why Cornwall 2025 has really caught the imagination."

The Man Engine at Geevor Tin Mine Credit: Greg Martin

As one of the poorest parts of the UK, Cornwall has seen sustained public investment in its digital infrastructure for many years, making it one of the best connected rural areas in Europe.

The bid will leverage this connectivity to create a cultural programme bringing together local communities and audiences from around the world, while tapping into Cornwall's diverse and fast-growing creative industries sector, which numbers more than 2,000 businesses employing almost 6,000 people, making the area comparable with many cities.

And with experience of hosting millions of annual visitors and world-class events, including last year's G7 summit, Cornwall is confident its bid can showcase what is best about Cornwall and provide a cultural response to the environmental challenges that affect everyone.

The bid has the backing of creative champions across Cornwall and beyond, ranging from actor and author Dawn French, to lyricist Sir Tim Rice, Olympic rower Helen Glover, broadcaster Petroc Trelawney and Director of Tate, Maria Balshaw.

St Just Ordinalia and Tour of Britain Credit: Jon Rowley

Helen Glover MBE, double Olympic rowing champion and triple world champion, who was born in Cornwall and grew up in Penzance, said: "From gig rowing to rugby, sport is a vital part of Cornwall's culture, and we've shown we can stage world class events like last years Tour of Britain."

Actor and writer Dawn French, who lives in Cornwall and is Chancellor of Falmouth University, said: "Falmouth University is at the heart of Cornwall's bid to be UK City of Culture in 2025.

"That's so important, as our young people and our young creatives will be the architects of an enterprising, inclusive and exciting future.

"While everyone knows how fantastic Cornwall is as a place to visit, not everyone is aware of the great cultural pedigree the region has."

Cornwall is one of just eight regions still in the running for the four yearly City of Culture competition. A final shortlist is expected to March, with the winner announced in May 2022.