The UK City of Culture is a designation given to a city in the United Kingdom for a period of one year. The aim of the initiative, which is administered by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, is to "build on the success of Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture 2008, which had significant social and economic benefits for the area". The inaugural holder of the award was Derry~Londonderry in 2013. In 2017, Kingston upon Hull took over the title. On 7 December 2017 it was declared that Coventry had been chosen to host in 2021.
In January 2009, it was announced that then Culture Secretary Andy Burnham was considering establishing a British City of Culture prize and that the winning city might possibly host events such as the Turner Prize, Brit Awards, Man Booker Prize and the Stirling Prize. Phil Redmond was invited to chair a panel set up to consider the proposal, with a remit including deciding how often the prize should be awarded. A working group was established in March and reported in June 2009, suggesting that the designation be given to a city once every four years starting in 2013.
The working group stated in its report that the same calendar of events, such as hosting the Brit Awards, should not be staged by each designated City of Culture. Rather, they suggested that the events held in the city should be decided on a case-by-case basis. The report lists possible core events, including those run by the BBC, Sony, the Poetry Book Society, the UK Film Council, the Tate, VisitEngland, VisitBritain, the Museums Association, the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage, Channel 4 and the Arts Council England.
Following the report of the working group, Burnham's successor as Culture Secretary, Ben Bradshaw, announced a competition to select the first UK City of Culture in July 2009. The deadline for initial bids was 11 December 2009, with shortlisted cities having until 28 May to make their final bids. A total of 14 cities applied, with four (Birmingham, Derry, Norwich and Sheffield) shortlisted. At a special televised ceremony in Liverpool on 15 July 2010, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey announced that Derry/Londonderry would be the first ever UK City of Culture. The festival was spearheaded by Culture Company 2013 and they branded the city as Derry~Londonderry.
Main article: Hull UK City of Culture 2017
After 2013, the next UK City of Culture was scheduled for 2017. Officials from Aberdeen stated they would bid for the title, as did officials from Dundee, while local officials from Colchester, Derby, Leicester, Plymouth, Stoke-on-Trent, Swansea, Hull, and York suggested that those cities would bid for the 2017 title. On 18 April 2013, the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce announced that Portsmouth and Southampton were making a joint bid for the 2017 title. There was also a bid from East Kent (Canterbury, Ashford, Folkestone, Dover and Thanet), and another from Hastings and Bexhill-on-Sea, supported by celebrity Graham Norton.
In June 2013 the shortlist of four bids from Dundee, Hull, Leicester and Swansea Bay was announced. The winner of the 2017 title was announced on 20 November 2013 and Hull was chosen. TV producer Phil Redmond, who chaired the City of Culture panel, said Hull was the unanimous choice because it put forward "the most compelling case based on its theme as 'a city coming out of the shadows'". On 31 July 2014, Martin Green was announced as chief executive of the team. Green was previously head of ceremonies for the 2012 Summer Olympics, and organised the 2014 Tour de France Grand Départ ceremony in Yorkshire.
On 1 January 2017, the Hull event opened with a fireworks display over the Humber Estuary and a series of sound and light installations collectively known as Made in Hull, which reportedly attracted more than 25,000 visitors. By the end of the first week, the BBC was reporting that 342,000 people had participated in the opening events. The event included multimedia sound and light projections onto landmark buildings in the city's Victoria Square as well as a display of Hullywood Icons featuring local people recreating famous scenes from film.
The BBC reported that a report by Hull University in March 2018 found Hull's status as the UK City of Culture attracted more than five million people, £220 million of investment and 800 new jobs.
Main article: Coventry UK City of Culture 2021
Swansea, Paisley, Stoke-on-Trent, Coventry and Sunderland were all shortlisted to be the third UK City of Culture. Coventry's win was announced by arts minister John Glen in Hull and broadcast live on The One Show on 7 December 2017. Glen said it was "an incredible opportunity for Coventry to boost investment in the local economy, grow tourism and put arts and culture centre stage". In July 2020 it was announced that the start of Coventry's year as City of Culture had been put back to May 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
|Year||Winning city||Other shortlisted cities||Date announced|
|2013||Derry~Londonderry||Birmingham, Norwich, Sheffield||15 July 2010|
|2017||Kingston upon Hull||Dundee, Leicester, Swansea Bay||20 November 2013|
|2021||Coventry||Paisley, Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland, Swansea||7 December 2017|