The UK Government must give urgent reassurance that its Brexit plans will not harm Dundee’s opportunity to bid to become the 2023 European Capital of Culture, Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said yesterday.
A UK city is due to host the title in 2023 alongside a city from Hungary, and Dundee is understood to be one of a number of cities to have expressed an interest in the competition, which can support regeneration, raise the winner’s international profile, strengthen culture and boost visitor numbers.
The UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport was expected to invite bids imminently, but the threat of Brexit has cast doubt on whether it will proceed with the competition.
Speaking in a debate about the implications of Brexit for culture, creative industries and tourism, Ms Hyslop confirmed she has written to the UK Secretary of State for Culture seeking confirmation that the UK still intends to be a host country in 2023, and clarity on when the bid process will open.
Ms Hyslop said:
“Dundee City Council’s aspiration is to bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2023. They have put a considerable amount of time, effort and expense into scoping out their bid and are excited about the cultural, regenerative and economic benefits it would generate in Dundee, Scotland, the rest of the UK and Europe.
“However, with the increasing likelihood of a hard Brexit being pursued by the UK Government, I am concerned that the delay in launching the competition is a signal of the Government’s intention to renege on its agreement to be a host city. Dundee must not now have the rug pulled from under them.
“I hope to receive reassurance that the UK Government intends to go ahead with its commitment to be the host country in 2023 and clarification on when the bid process will open.”
Ken Guild, Leader of Dundee City Council, said:
“Dundee has planned to be a candidate city for the European Capital of Culture in 2023 and would be hugely disappointed if it was denied the opportunity to present its case as a city which represents the ideals of the European Capital of Culture.”
The European City of Culture (ECoC) was devised in 1985 as a way to bring Europeans together by highlighting the richness and diversity of European cultures and raising awareness of common history and values.
ECoC is hosted by two EU member states each year and an additional associate member state hosts the title every third year. Non-EU countries Norway and Iceland have hosted the title as part of agreements negotiated with the EU.
A city from the UK and a city from Hungary are due to be ECoC in 2023. Leeds, Milton Keynes and Dundee have so far expressed an interest.
The UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport is required to launch the competition by the end of this year.
The full text of the letter is:
Dear Ms Bradley,
I am writing to seek urgent clarity from you on the UK Government’s position on hosting the European Capital of Culture competition in 2023, and for confirmation of when your Department will officially launch competition bids.
You will be aware that Dundee City Council’s aspiration is to become European Capital of Culture in 2023. They have put a considerable amount of time, effort and expense into scoping out their bid and are excited about the many benefits such a bid would generate in Dundee, Scotland, the rest of the UK and Europe.
Dundee is the first UNESCO City of Design in the UK, a prestigious award that recognises the huge contribution the city has made to design worldwide. This richly deserved accolade further strengthens the city's growing reputation as a hub of cultural and creative excellence and an international centre for the creative industries whilst the continuing regeneration of Dundee and its Waterfront will give the city a world-class design museum in the V&A.
International engagement makes a crucial contribution to sustainable economic growth, bringing new perspectives, fresh ideas and new partnerships. Culture, innovation, research and design can transform lives and facilitate international dialogue and must be at the forefront of our continued development.
However, with the increasing likelihood of a hard Brexit being pursued by the UK Government, I am concerned that the delay in launching the competition for bids for the European Capital of Culture is a signal of the Government’s intention to renege on its agreement to be a host city.
As the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs in Scotland I recognise the valuable role culture can have in promoting outward-looking, welcoming and progressive values, which are more important now than they have been in recent years.
I trust, as UK Secretary of State for Culture, you too recognise the enormous benefits international cultural engagement can bring to help promote these values, and how essential it is to continue to participate in partnerships like the European Capital of Culture.
With that in mind, I hope to receive your reassurance that the UK Government intends to go ahead with its commitment to be the host country in 2023 and for your clarification on when the bid process will open.
Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs.