Northampton’s UK City of Culture bid to be deferred until 2029

Northampton Borough Council want to put the town forward to be the UK City of Culture
Northampton Borough Council want to put the town forward to be the UK City of Culture

Northampton Borough Council is set to delay its bid to become the UK City of Culture.

The council had previously expressed its interest in vying with places such as Chelmsford, Luton and Southampton for the 2025 status.

But the council’s overview and scrutiny committee heard last night (June 10) that the bid was likely to be deferred, with the team now focusing on bidding for the next opportunity in 2029.

Marion Goodman, head of cultural services at the council, told the committee: “We are currently proposing that we could consider launching the strategic long-term cultural vision for the town and then having a City of Culture bid for 2029.

“There’s a number of reasons why we think that would be good timing. Firstly, the museum would be finished, as would the Vulcan Works project. It would also be a good time particularly if we are successful in our Northampton Forward bid.

“I don’t think we would be able to do the amount of work required for 2025, but it’s something we could consider launching next year.”

The UK City of Culture status is designated to one city in the UK every four years by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Two cities have held the status so far in Londonderry in 2013 and Hull in 2017, while Coventry beat off contenders such as Sunderland and Swansea to be City of Culture in 2021.

The borough council has previously said that becoming UK City of Culture would ‘develop a strong focus on arts and culture and give a huge boost to the local economy, attracting additional investment and funding’.

Chair of the scrutiny committee, Councillor Jamie Lane, said that the biggest issue would be funding, while panel member Councillor Gareth Eales said the decision to go for 2029 instead of 2025 seemed ‘pragmatic’.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “If we are going for City of Culture, it would be good to get our own cultural house in order first.”

The borough council will develop a Cultural Strategy which will support a bid following the conclusion of an 11-month study by the scrutiny committee that concluded in 2018.