Let’s aspire to be UK City of Culture

I was very interested to read in the Observer (March 8) about the Hastings and Bexhill bid to be UK City of Culture.

Having recently moved to Hastings from Bristol, where I led the city bid for European Capital of Culture 2008, I can testify to the extraordinary impact this had. Just the fact that Bristol bid, after initial surprise locally, got people talking about just how special the city already was.

Even the taxi drivers began to welcome visitors proudly, with information about local cultural life.

When we were then shortlisted, everyone wanted to get involved. We just had to look at our best for the judges visit!

External funders wanted to invest in the city, projects that had struggled for years to get noticed started to happen, and the council made a long term commitment to regeneration through culture. Aspiration was really lifted.

So although we were very disappointed to lose to Liverpool, Bristol was delighted to be seen to be in the top four cities nationally, and has since gone from strength to strength.

I have no doubt that something similar can happen here, and Hastings Borough Council is to be congratulated for taking this bold initiative.

Can we all now bring our individual passions for arts, sport and culture together to tell the rest of the UK how special it is to live here? And do this in typically local style, as loudly as possible?

Paul Barnett

Priory Road