Leicester's rivals for the 2017 UK City of Culture 'can't match our cultural mix'
Leicester's rivals for the 2017 UK City of Culture crown have been revealed.
Bosses from the city's arts scene, businesses and politicians are preparing a bid to land the title currently held by Londonderry, in Northern Ireland.
They hope winning the Government competition will raise the national and international profile of the city, attracting huge numbers of visitors, creating tourism jobs and boosting the local economy by millions of pounds.
It was already known Aberdeen and Plymouth would be among Leicester's challengers for 2017 and yesterday Culture Minister Ed Vaizey revealed the other contenders.
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They are Chester, Dundee, East Kent (covering Ashford, Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone and Thanet), Hastings and Bexhill on Sea, Hull, Portsmouth and Southampton, Southend on Sea, and Swansea Bay (covering Swansea, Carmarthenshire, Neath and Port Talbot).
They must submit bids to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport by April and a shortlist of four will be chosen in June. The winner will be announced in November.
City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby, who chairs a consortium putting together Leicester's bid, said: "I have been to some of the other places and undoubtedly some of them are very interesting. However, I am confident any impartial observer will see that none of them can match Leicester's unique mixture of cultures.
"We have a brilliant opportunity here and, having seen our rivals, I am confident in our chances."
Curve theatre chief executive Fiona Allan, who is also on the consortium, said she too was confident.
"I don't want to name and shame anywhere else but when I read the list I was still confident we would be shortlisted," she said.
"I think our main rivals could be Plymouth and Aberdeen, who were the first to announce bids. Both could be formidable opponents.
"One of our great advantages is that this is already an international city.
"We reflect a modern, cosmopolitan United Kingdom, while still offering a rich heritage and fascinating history."
Mr Vaizey said: "Thisshows the appetite for the prestigious City of Culture title is in healthy supply right across the length and breadth of the country."
All 11 contenders have until April to submit their initial bids, which will be considered by the panel.
Leicester City Council has pledged £50,000 to cover stage one of the bid but any further money is likely to have to be raised through private sector sponsorship.
Martin Traynor, consortium member and chief executive of Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce, said: "Our city has such a rich variety of cultures and that is a great strength. There will be some very strong bids but I think we have a very good chance of winning."
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