Hastings to bid to become capital of culture

THE TOWN could be on its way to becoming a cultural beacon of the south east.

Hastings and Bexhill are among 11 places which have put themselves forward to be named UK City of Culture 2017.

The accolade is currently held by Derry, and the names of the places that have put themselves forward for the 2017 designation - the next year for which it will be awarded - were announced today (Wednesday) by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

They are, Hastings and Bexhill, Aberdeen, Chester, Dundee, East Kent (covering Ashford, Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone and Thanet), Hull, Leicester, Plymouth, Portsmouth and Southampton, Southend on Sea, and Swansea Bay (covering Swansea, Carmarthenshire, Neath, and Port Talbot).

Leader of Hastings Borough Council councillor Jeremy Birch said: “This shows the league we believe the Hastings area is becoming part of.

“The Jerwood Gallery has now been open a year and has really helped to change our cultural status.

“We have a culture of festivals and processions to rival anywhere from Jack in the Green to the bonfire. The restoration of Hastings Pier will allow us to relive the culture of promenading of days gone by.

“And most recently we have the public exhibition of the two shortlisted entries for a major public art feature on Pelham roundabout and next weekend the increasingly significant international piano festival.

“Not forgetting of course all that is on offer at the De La Warr just next door in Bexhill.

“The Hastings area is becoming a cultural beacon in the South East and nationally, and we have every justification aiming for the city of culture status in four years time. This town is on the way up; let the whole country recognise that.”

The full bids for the competition must be received by the end of April, after which they will be assessed by an Independent Advisory Panel with the aim of announcing a shortlist in June.

It is hoped that the winner will be announced in Derry-Londonderry in November this year.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey said: “This is fantastic news and shows the appetite for the prestigious ‘City of Culture’ title is in healthy supply right across the length and breadth of the country.

“The competition brings together communities and creates economic and social benefits and I am pleased to see so many local authorities and different partners coming together. I wish all 11 the best of luck.”

Phil Redmond, chair of the independent advisory panel said: “The UK City of Culture can be a real catalyst for change and I’m delighted so many places have registered their interest in the competition for 2017.

“Together with the panel I’m looking forward to receiving some ambitious and dynamic bids that highlight the very best of local cultural talent, along with delivering a realistic programme that will appeal to as wide an audience as possible.”