Sunderland’s politicians, arts chiefs and business leaders have reacted with delight after it was shortlisted in the final five in the bidding to be named UK City of Culture 2021.
Swansea, Paisley, Coventry and Stoke are Sunderland’s rivals for the accolade, with the winner being announced in December.
Having made the final five, work is underway on Sunderland’s second stage, which will now be submitted in September.
Rebecca Ball, director of Sunderland 2021: “This is fantastic news for the city and we couldn’t have done it without the support from the people of Sunderland and the North East. It is down to their support and hard work that we have made it this far.
“It is a huge achievement to get to this stage of what has been an extremely competitive process. We are delighted to have come this far, but we don’t have time to be complacent; we are very much in it to win it and there is much to be done to prepare for the next stage of the competition.
“We wish all of the other shortlisted places the very best of luck as they develop their bids over the next few months. The first stage bid submission was the culmination of months and months of hard work, so every single place that has thrown their hat in the ring deserves credit.”
Winning the contest could trigger an economic boost for Sunderland. Hull, named 2017 UK City of Culture, has seen £1billion in investment since it was crowned as winner.
Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central, said: “We must now focus our energy on the second stage of the bid, bringing together all communities in our city to to show what brilliant cultural assets we already have and what opportunities are available to us in the future.
“We are a special city with a bright cultural future and are right to be excited by the potential of this bid.”
Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, said: “We have so much to offer as a beacon of culture for not only the North East, but also the wider UK and indeed the world. This is Sunderland’s opportunity to be put on the map as a top cultural destination, and I -; like many others in Sunderland -; will continue to back the bid and support the team working to achieve this accolade for our city.”
Coun Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Sunderland has a unique energy and ambition, making it the perfect contender for UK City of Culture.
Shirley Atkinson, the University of Sunderland’s vice-chancellor, added: “The competition has the power to absolutely transform Sunderland’s destiny. It will change the future for the city and the people who live and work here as well as those who visit. A win for Sunderland would be a win for the whole of the North East.”
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