The cultural offer in the North of England has never been stronger. With major cities presenting large-scale festivals, popular public free events attracting people from all over the world for their first visits to the region, annual festivals in urban and rural areas bringing in thousands of fresh visitors and imaginative use of heritage venues throughout the region, the North is rightly established as a key destination for cultural tourists.
Hull’s bid to secure the title of UK City of Culture 2017 - and its ultimate success in doing so - is a prime example of the transformative power of culture. In 2013 the city was awarded a £3 million Arts Council England Creative people and places grant to develop the city’s cultural offer. This brought together a consortium of organisations including Artlink, Hull Truck Theatre, Volcom, Hull City Council and Hull and East Yorkshire Community Foundation and led to the development of the strategy that secured the title for the city.
Plans are now in train for a 365 day programme of 1,500 events, including 25 festivals in and around the city in 2017. The city predicts it will welcome seven million visitors during its special year. The core programme will be supported by up to £3 million funding from the Arts Council.
Liverpool builds continually on the legacy of its year as European City of Culture 2008. Between 23-27 July 2014 the city stages the nation’s flagship cultural event marking 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War. Memories of August 1914 is commissioned jointly by Liverpool City Council and 14-18 NOW, the First World War Centenary Cultural Programme, to which we are contributing £5 million of lottery funding.
Every two years the city also hosts the Liverpool Biennial, the largest international contemporary art festival in the UK.
Since the first Biennial in 1999, over 279 artists from 72 countries have presented artwork in the city. Supported by Arts Council England, Liverpool City Council, the European Regional Development Fund 2007 – 2013 and Founding Supporter James Moores, in 2012 the Liverpool Biennial attracted 692,000 visitors to the city and generated £21 million of economic impact.
Manchester International Festival, also biennial, prides itself on being the world’s first and only festival of new work. The 18-day festival in 2013 featured over 300 performances of more than 30 new commissions and special events. Audiences for the 2013 festival are estimated at around 250,000, an increase of 10 per cent on the 2011 event. Around 75 per cent of audiences came from Greater Manchester, with the rest from other parts of the UK and beyond, including visitors from more than 45 countries. The next festival runs from 2-9 July 2015.
Another major festival hosted by Manchester and supported by the Arts Council is Manchester Literature Festival, bringing high quality live literature to the city and showcasing the very best in contemporary writing. 9,682 people attended in 2013, a 20 per cent increase on the previous year, with 29 per cent of them travelling from outside Greater Manchester.
Durham, too, has a book festival, which reached over 8,000 people in 2013. But the city is also known for its light festival Lumiere. Managed by Artichoke and supported by Durham County Council, Arts Council England and Lottery funds, Lumiere 2013 entertained 175,000 people. The 27 installations included the world’s biggest helium balloon, a phone box filled with real fish, a Christmas Tree made out of 3,000 plastic bags donated by the public and a giant 3D projection of an elephant stomping down Durham’s famous Elvet Bridge.