Southend bids to be crowned City of Culture!
14th March 2013
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Southend-on-Sea Borough Council is leading the bid in partnership with others to seize the opportunity to further enhance Southend’s profile as a leading centre for culture and tourism. Among the other partners are the international arts organisation, Metal, based in Chalkwell Park and Focal Point Gallery, whose director, Andrew Hunt was invited to join the panel of art experts to judge last year’s Turner Prize.

Southend has an impressive track record to support its bid: The Government recently invited the Borough to become one of just 20 places in Britain to negotiate a City Deal – recognising its potential for economic growth. City Deals allow destinations to take on Whitehall powers to develop economic growth linked directly to the cultural and creative industry – one of Southend’s six key sectors.

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council has already delivered projects, achieved ambitions and fulfilled pledges featured in its earlier City of Culture 2013 bid. They include:

  • City Beach; 
  • Victoria Gateway; 
  • Warrior Square Gardens; 
  • Southend Pier Cultural Centre; 
  • Southend Swimming and Diving Centre; 
  • The opening of Chalkwell Hall; 
  • The Forum Southend-on-Sea, being jointly developed by the Council, University of Essex and South Essex College, to offer state-of-the-art library and learning facilities, and due to open this September. 

Judges will scrutinise the bid looking for elements including the performing arts, heritage, historic environment, architecture, broadcasting, media and community transformation. They have said: “What matters will not be the quantity of new proposals , initiatives and plans or the size, glitz and glamour of the bids but the quality of the thinking behind them, the level of ambition, the inspiration and innovation, the degree of partnership working and the nature of the legacy.”

Southend is a cultural centre serving residents of the borough as well as its near neighbours, Rochford and Castle Point – reaching a potential local audience of up to 400,000 as well as its six million visitors.

The Borough benefits from its strong community cultural base with a host of local arts organisations giving high quality performances. Many of these groups are represented by the umbrella organisation Southend-on-Sea Arts Council. Other events include the hugely popular Village Green festival staged by Metal at Chalkwell Park and the literature Festival of the Sea.

These successes demonstrate how much the Council and its partners are committed to Culture and its key role in promoting the economic wellbeing of the Borough.

Meanwhile, Southend can also boast history and heritage dating back many centuries as well as new developments making their own history today. From the excavation of the Prittlewell Prince dating back to the year 650, there is Prittlewell Priory in Priory Park from 1180; the Tudor dwelling Southchurch Hall in Southchurch Park the fishing heritage of Leigh to Shoebury Garrison and the new Heritage centre covering military history.

Among Southend’s modern architectural highlights are the planned Museum of the Thames, South Essex College building and the University of Essex Students’ accommodation.

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s Executive Councillor for Culture and Tourism, Councillor Derek Jarvis said: “We have so much to offer in Southend, we feel we truly deserve to be City of Culture 2017. “The judging panel for our previous bid recommended Southend as a possible candidate for 2017, so we look forward to preparing an excellent submission ready for the Tuesday 30th April deadline. “Winning for 2017 would enable the Council and its partners to collaborate with national arts/cultural organisations - such as the BBC, Arts Council, National Museums, Tate and the Turner Prize, the Royal Opera House, Southbank Centre and many others both in Britain and abroad - on projects for Southend. “This is a tremendous chance to promote Southend to the rest of Britain and Europe, encourage business and investment, and most importantly celebrate the great cultural strength that already exists here in Southend.” “Apart from our tourism and economic aspirations we want to transform the communities which make up modern day Southend.”

Bids submitted by Tuesday 30th April will be judged, and those shortlisted must then submit final bids by Monday 30th September. The winner will be announced in late November.

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Claire T

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