Plymouth MP Alison Seabeck invites Minister to visit "City of Culture"
THE Culture Minister has agreed to visit Plymouth as the city gears up to bid for UK City of Culture status.
MP Alison Seabeck invited Ed Vaizey during Commons questions yesterday. She said she reacted after two Essex MPs started talking about their own bids for UK City of Culture 2017.
"I couldn't let them have a free rein," Ms Seabeck said. "So I invited Ed Vaizey to come and visit Plymouth and he said he would."
Ms Seabeck said the bid reinforced the idea that Plymouth is a destination.
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She said that local opponents of the bid were "simply wrong". The Olympic Torch relay had proved the value of cultural and sporting events, bringing an extra £1.5million into the city.
And she said that the bid alone, even if Plymouth does not win, would draw attention to the city.
"Plymouth has only recently begun to understand that cultural and sporting events do have the capacity to boost the local economy.
"Manchester, Glasgow and Liverpool, which were incredibly rundown, have picked themselves up, and at the heart of that was a cultural offer. We have been rather slower than the rest of the country to understand that."
Mr Vaizey launched the nationwide contest to find the 2017 City of Culture last month.
The competition is designed to use culture and creativity as a catalyst to transform communities and showcase artistic talent.
The city council and Plymouth University have each pledged £20,000 for the Culture Board to put together a bid. The money will have to be matched by the private sector.
Cities have to register an interest with Mr Vaizey's department by the end of February and submit bids by the end of April. A shortlist will be announced in June.
Tracey Guiry, Plymouth's City of Culture bid director, said: "The Plymouth Culture Board is galvanising support from across the city and we're delighted with the responses we've been getting.
"We are working with community groups to get local people involved and linking with schools.
"Through the Chamber of Commerce and Plymouth Area Business Council we are getting huge support from the business community."
She is setting up a Culture Forum and holding a consultation in March. A website is about to go live, and the Culture Board will launch a social media campaign.
"There is so much enthusiasm and a real buzz as lots of people are talking about the bid," she said.