TV producer and screenwriter Sir Phil Redmond paid a special visit to County Durham on Monday as part of the UK City of Culture 2025 judging panel.
County Durham are competing against three shortlisted areas for the title, which will be announced later this month. During his visit, Sir Phil joked that he was able to see a number of sights, including where Sir Keir Starmer was filmed enjoying a beer late at night in April 2021.
However, the Hollyoaks and Brookside producer also acknowledged how positive it was to see people from County Durham working together to showcase the county’s culture.
Read more: Lord Parkinson visits Durham as part of county’s bid to be named City of Culture
Sir Phil, Chairman of the City of Culture Expert Advisory Board, said: “One of the things I particularly enjoy about this process is coming to the cities, meeting and talking to people and seeing how they work together to support the bid, people get together sometimes for the first time, and it’s really great to see that.
“I like the idea of talking about history and heritage because I think there are a lot of people across the UK who tend to live in places but they don’t really know why. I think it’s really great to hear that they want to talk about the history of the railways and the history of social movements and remind young people of their heritage.
He added: “I hope this whole process inspires people to get things done. Even if they fail to build on this and develop and use these partnerships to develop a cultural strategy for the future .
“It’s worked elsewhere, other places like Sunderland that haven’t had [City of Culture] created Culture Sunderland which did great things. I encourage everyone to use the work that has already been done and move forward.”
Sir Phil and the rest of the jury enjoyed a busy schedule on their trip to the county, which started in Durham City in Redhills, the historic headquarters of the Durham Miners’ Association. It is the association’s motto that inspired the title of County Durham’s bid – “Into the Light: From the past we inherit the future we build”.
The 11 panel members then split up to see as much of the county as possible with one group heading to Dawdon on the east coast, where they met locals who are engaged in a community arts project called Beaches of Dreams. Here, judges were able to tour an outdoor installation the band had created with handmade flags, as well as hear how the installation relates to Black to Green, a project being developed as part of the bid. which explores the county’s evolution from coal mining to green juggernaut. central.
Meanwhile, other panel members traveled to Bishop Auckland to learn about major regeneration projects underway in the area. They heard about the Auckland Project’s work during a visit to the Spanish Gallery and No 42, where a community lunch was held and the judges were also introduced to representatives from local tourism businesses.
And finally, a third group visited Durham City, where they explored the county’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, which includes Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle. Other highlights include a visit to Prebends Bridge to enjoy views captured by world renowned painter JMW Turner, a glimpse into a secret garden and a presentation on county bids to raise funding.
The judges then gathered for lunch at the New Durham Working Men’s Club in the city. Here they enjoyed the warm welcome and camaraderie for which the area is famous, as well as some of the culture of County Durham immortalized in the works of the Pitman Painters. However, there was a 21st century twist, with live performances and guests representing the heart and soul of the county.
The judges also heard how it relates to No Frills, Thrill Me, a Durham 2025 project which will challenge performers to entertain audiences in simple locations without the aid of props and special effects. Food for lunch was provided by REfUSE, a social enterprise committed to reducing food waste, while serving imaginative dishes at its community ‘pay as you feel’ cafe in Chester-le-Street.
Finally, the tour ended at the Ogden Centre, where the judges heard about the work of Durham University‘s Cosmology and Astrophysics departments. They also learned how this important research helped inspire Light Year, a year-long cultural program celebrating the region’s 1,300-year history of astronomy and space science.
The Durham 2025 campaign is led by Durham County Council, Durham University and Culture Durham, a partnership of over 20 cultural organizations from across the county. And Sir Phil explained some of the benefits that the City of Culture would enjoy.
He said: “The prize is probably worth around £200m in terms of PR benefits, to have this whole year of media saying X place is awesome you really should go see it and then through all the extra visitors who come These visitors bring money and cash to power the regeneration engine.
“It’s a great opportunity for a city to come forward and use it as a springboard.”
Councilor Amanda Hopgood, Leader of Durham County Council, said: “Durham is such a diverse county and while it’s impossible to show the judges everything when they visit, we really want to give them a taste of the variety that exists here.
“It is also important to us that the judges meet the people who will benefit if County Durham is named UK City of Culture 2025. Whether it is our communities who will be able to access exciting new opportunities or our businesses, who would benefit from the increase number of visitors that our 2025 program would attract.
“County Durham has a rich heritage, beautiful countryside, spectacular coastline, world-class festivals and events and award-winning cultural venues and attractions. However, we also face challenges. The development of our bid has provided tangible evidence that the cultural, economic and wellbeing changes we need to realize our huge untapped potential can be achieved or catalyzed by UK City of Culture 2025.”
This year, for the first time, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has expanded the UK Culture City competition to allow counties and districts to apply, resulting in a record 20 applications. In March, County Durham was one of only four places to make the shortlist. The winner is expected to be announced later this month.
If County Durham were to win the title, it would bring social and economic benefits to the whole region. This would include creating thousands of jobs, stimulating creative economies and millions of pound visitors and helping to improve community wellbeing.
And with the county’s increased national and international profile and appeal, the benefits of being UK City of Culture 2025 will be felt for years to come.
Professor Karen O’Brien, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, said: “We are delighted to be able to give the judges insight into the wonderful places and people in our county.
“As a university, we are proud to be an integral part of our regional community and Durham University’s museums, collections, tourist attractions and cultural activities are an integral part of what County Durham has to offer. Get City of Culture status would be a game-changer for our region which is brimming with innovation, opportunity and passion to help our communities thrive.”