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Joint Statement from the UK’s Five Bidding Cities

28 February 2018

On 23rd November, the European Commission announced “it will not be possible” for UK cities to host the 2023 European Capital of Culture competition. Since then the UK’s five bidding cities – Belfast, Dundee, Leeds, Milton Keynes, and Nottingham – have held regular joint discussions to find a positive resolution and way forward, including conversations with the DCMS, the UK Government’s sponsoring department for the competition.

Throughout this period the cities’ preferred outcome has been for the EU to review and reverse its initial decision and for the bidding process to continue. However, given that all diplomatic approaches to date have not resulted in any change in position we have now reluctantly concluded that our participation in the competition is not possible.

From the outset of this period the DCMS declared their continued commitment to working with the five UK cities to help them realise their cultural ambitions and a number of possible solutions have been explored, including a parallel non-EU competition. None, however, were felt likely to meet the social and economic impacts and benefits anticipated from the ECoC designation.

At the time of the Commission’s announcement the UK Government declared its intention to work “with our friends in Europe to promote the long-term economic development of our continent, which may include participating in cultural programmes.”. The five cities now look forward to continued dialogue with the new Secretary of State for Culture to see how best each city’s cultural ambitions can be supported to help deliver this positive, international agenda.

The investment of hope from thousands of citizens in each bidding city has led to an understandably heightened expectation of the tremendous impact cultural intervention can make to a city’s economic, cultural and social objectives, and we look forward to working with UK Government to help realise these to their greatest effect.