Posted: Fri 3rd Dec 2021

Wrexham told “not be afraid to be bold, risk-taking and surprising” for Culture 2025 bid for people living in or visiting the wrexham area

Wrexham will be decked out in a range of promotion ahead of the Culture 2025 bid, with a large event also planned ahead of February to support the bid.

The UK City of Culture is a competition run by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport every four years – can now include local areas such as towns, in addition to cities.

Cllr Hugh Jones, Lead Member for Communities, Partnerships, Public Protection and Community Safety explained how Wrexham are now joint favourites with bookmakers, adding “I think that demonstrates the strength of the bid that we’ve put in and we’re now all guns blazing towards getting onto the shortlist. Then, obviously, onto the successful outcome. There is significant benefit for Wrexham if this comes off”.

“I think the important thing to understand is this is a Wrexham County Borough bit. This is about benefiting the whole of the County Borough. It is not really the council either, the council is facilitating and coordinating. It is a Wrexham bid, this application embraces the broadest cross section of the community. From a council perspective, it’s brilliant. We’ve got all political groups fully behind in it and supporting it.”

As previously reported Wrexham has made the long list, and as a result the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has awarded a sum of £40,000 in order to support the development of bids. Locally further help with the promotion of the bid and “to raise awareness and support at a grassroots level”, it is also proposed a one-off ‘Support the Bid’ community focussed event will take place, which the Council’s Corporate Events Team will need the Council to supply additional funding in the region of £50,000.

The next stage is a short window of bid activity before a February 2nd deadline, which will then see a shortlist emerge in March. If successful at that point judges will make a visit before the final winner is announced in May.

Wrexham Council’s Executive Board are set to approve the next steps, and have been told to note the feedback so far from the expression of interest – which notes “You should not be afraid to be bold, risk-taking and surprising”.

The report before councillors explains some benefits elsewhere, “Previous winners are Derry/Londonderry in 2013, Hull in 2017 and Coventry, the current holder of the title UK City of Culture 2021. The areas that have won the title have been able to build upon this success, in terms of attracting investment, visitors, jobs and being able to change how they were perceived by the wider public.

“During its tenure as UK City of Culture, Hull for example, achieved £219m of investment, saw the creation of 800 jobs and 95% of residents indicating that they had participated in at least one event that had been held during the year.”

Frameworks are in place to support the bid, which initially the council will lead on, however if it progresses further a “Cultural Trust” would be set up to deliver the aims.

councillors have been told, “Two steering groups have been established. The first being a Member-steering group that will help guide and shape the bid process and advise on how the final bid will look. The second steering group is stakeholder led and will comprise a mix of public, private and third sector organisations who will encourage the participation of other businesses within the County Borough. They will also act as a key consultee, ensuring the bid has input from outside the Local Authority”

The report is also clear on future costs, “Engagement with the local business community and further Government grants, should enable the Year of Culture programme to be delivered with no addition burden to local households.”

We asked Cllr Hugh Jones how the current confusion with some between a City of Culture bid and City Status bid would be overcome, “We have made it very clear that the two are totally and utterly separate, there is no link at all between the two. The only common feature is the word city.” Cllr Jones also reiterated how any area can be in for City of Culture, even if they are not infact a city – such as Cornwall, or Wrexham. has had sight of some internal documents, including the logo that is being made public for the first time today. It focuses around the word ‘Wrecsam’ in a colourful context. We asked Cllr Hugh Jones about that choice, he explained it was ‘unwieldy and unmanageable’ to run a full bilingual logo containing all the wording so the decision was made to use Wrecsam, “I think it’s quite a bold decision but I think it’s a good decision to go with Wrexham spelt in Welsh right in the middle. Everything else on it is bilingual. When you look at the the key elements of our big, we talked about our Welsh language and our heritage. So therefore, why wouldn’t we use the Welsh spelling? It may be slightly controversial, but I’m more than happy to take that on.”

We had heard rumours that a very glossy bid from Conwy had perhaps fallen for being overly positive, in that context we pointed out that generally the council says everything’s great, when some people may say that certain things are not. We asked is this bid going to see a dose of realism, to say ‘this is the reality of Wrexham, and this is how the bid will help?’

Cllr Jones replied, “It’s absolutely that. I think you’ve said it as well as I could say it. I know it is a political phrase, levelling up, but its really demonstrating how we can improve the quality of people’s lives across the broad section of the whole of the county borough, and a broad cross section of multicultural communities that we have in Wrexham.”

With the previous question in mind, we asked if this was something the councillors themselves should stay clear of and allow the delivery and steering groups crack on with their work unhindered.

Cllr Jones explained the setup, “What you see in the report, the way it has been established that there is a there is a steering group that is going to be chaired independently. I will be the only elected member that will sit on that group purely to establish a link between elected members. It is not political. It is not controversial. The important ingredient in this bid is that the whole community of Wrexham has ownership of the bid, that we are facilitating and supporting the people of Wrexham in their bid.”

Finally we asked what the people of Wrexham can expect to see in the coming weeks or couple of months as things progress.

Cllr Jones revealed what will take place in a build up to February 2nd deadline, “There be a major event, and we’re still working on what that event is, which will be the culmination and the focus of our bid.

“People out in the community will begin to see buildings being lit up, there will be signs, posters, banners, advertising and promoting our bid. Places like Chirk Castle and Erddig and civic buildings will be lit. People will begin to see in their own communities, in their own villages, signs about our bid and community events supporting our bid. A”

“The bid process itself should demonstrate an improvement across a cross section of our community. The fact that we are submitting the bid by working together on a number of projects, that will help generate improvements in itself irrespective of the outcome of the day, and so we will demonstrate through our application process, how we are able to contribute to the levelling up agenda.”

A new website is expected shortly, which will contain a range of news, FAQ’s and details about what being a UK City of Culture means along with the logo and bid details emerging on social media.

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