After years of planning, a dozen cities pitching, five shortlisted candidate cities crammed for the final pitch to the judging panel in Hull last week. And after a quick check to get the approval of the arts minister John Glen, the winner of the UK City of Culture 2021 designation is Coventry.
The story that started in Derry Londonderry in 2013 and is transforming Hull will next head a little south and a little west in 2021. The hard work really starts now, not only for Coventry, but for the other cities who didn’t quite make it this time. Hull won at the second go, and they have done an outstanding job to elevate the status of both their city and the fast-emerging UK City of Culture brand. So for Stoke-on-Trent, Paisley, Swansea and Sunderland there will be plenty of positives to take as they assess how to capitalise on the real progress they will all have made in building programmes, engagement, and collaborative practice. As the judging panel chair Phil Redmond put it: “For those that weren’t successful this time, I hope, as has happened in other places, that they will look to the future and build on the wider cultural partnerships they have created.”
But for now, massive congratulations to Coventry – no longer will people be sent there, they will be drawn there. It’s all about the change, a bit initially, but then more and more until, as their diversity-championing campaign said, they ‘change Coventry forever’.