Lord Digby Jones backs Birmingham's City of Culture bid

21 May 2010

Lord Digby Jones  is backing Birmingham in its bid to become the UK's first City of Culture, alongside other well known faces from the city including actress Julie Walters, Olympic star Denise Lewis MBE, former Python Terry Jones, and singer Beverley Knight.

Following Liverpool's successful European Capital of Culture accolade in 2008, the City of Culture award was created, hoping to reap the same social and economic benefits for the city of Birmingham and surrounding areas.

Lord Digby Jones said: "Tourism is one of the Cinderellas of the business space. Employing millions of people and generating enormous inward overseas currency flows, the sector would receive such a boost in the West Midlands if the bid were to succeed."

Commenting that he is "proud to add my fulsome support to the bid", he added:

"The creative Industries provide so many entry-level jobs for young people and symbolise the achievement of transitioning the West Midlands economy into innovative channels."

Birmingham will compete against three other cities for the title, Londonderry, Norwich and Sheffield. The city was a frontrunner for the title of European Capital of Culture in 2008, but lost out to Liverpool.

Liverpool's Capital of Culture year went on to boost the regional economy by £800m, attracting millions of new visitors.

Birmingham is currently preparing for the final submission of its bid, and if it is successful, the economic and social benefits could leave a lasting legacy. Current estimates from Birmingham City Council suggest the UK City of Culture title could be worth an estimated £200m to the local economy.

This is a view firmly held by Councillor Martin Mullaney, chairman of the Birmingham Cultural Partnership.

He said: "Liverpool experienced a 34% rise in visitors, with almost 28 million people visiting the city in 2008.

"A similar rise in Birmingham would represent a significant boost for our hotels, bars, restaurants, theatres and other attractions."
He added: "Though these figures relate to Liverpool's year as the European City of Culture, you can obviously draw parallels between the two titles."

Mr Mullaney added: "Importantly, winning would allow Birmingham to accelerate the pace of positive change in the city after the recession, creating thousands of new jobs.

"We have a lot to be proud of here in Birmingham and our exciting plans would undoubtedly put the city under a national and international spotlight.

The four shortlisted cities were decided by an independent advisory panel and announced in February. The winning city will be revealed in July.

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