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Medway's City of Culture bid gets backing

Medway's hopes of becoming the UK City of Culture in 2025 have received further backing.

The Towns' bid was launched last Friday at the annual Medway Mile event in Rochester.

Council leader Cllr Alan Jarrett (Con) announced the intention, saying it could attract massive investment.

Which places in Medway could take part in a year of culture?

This week, he has been joined by other prominent figures in backing the bid.

Winning would be a "game-changer" for Medway, according to Chatham-born Coventry council chief Martin Reeve, who was integral in steering the Midlands city to the 2021 title.

Spending the first 18 years of his life in Strood, the lifelong Gillingham fan has an obvious passion for the Towns.

But the former Chatham Technical High pupil also has a great deal of knowledge of the competition and thinks bidding can only be a positive thing.

"Game-changer is an overused term but there is no better way of describing the impact winning has.

"It immediately changes the perception of the place and brings people together," he said.

KMTV reported on the launch of the bid

Medway's announcement was met with cynicism online, mainly due to the fact it isn't actually a city but the 49-year-old brushed such concerns aside, saying: "Medway is a key member of a medium-sized cities network.

"It's got all the attributes, ambition and growth of a city and it shouldn't concern itself about that."

The opposition Labour group is also supporting the bid.

Its leader Cllr Vince Maple said: "Medway is a fantastic place nearly 300,000 people call home.

"It is important this bid involves as many of them as possible.

"What sets Medway apart from other communities looking to bid for this is our unique combination of our shared history along with our grit, determination and never say never attitude.

Medway Labour councillor Vince Maple (5038927)
Medway Labour councillor Vince Maple (5038927)

"From a historic dockyard to acid jazz, thriving local comedy and music scenes to an art gallery in a motorcycle shop, amazing local poets to traffic cone wearing innovators, from beating the retreat to calling the midwife - Medway has all of this and so much more.

"That's why I'm backing the #Medway2025 bid."

The party's regeneration and communities spokesman, Cllr Andy Stamp, said: "This is a fantastic opportunity to boost Medway’s tourism, raise civic pride and improve access to the arts.

This bid has the potential to bring not only a year-long programme of fun events highlighting everything positive about Medway, but also the huge economic and social benefits seen in cities of culture like Hull.

"In its year, Hull had more than five million visitors and has benefitted from over £3 billion worth of investment since being awarded the honour in 2017 - this legacy continues today."

Call the Midwife exhibition and tours launch at Chatham Historic Dockyard - the cast with the dockyard tour guides (14275482)
Call the Midwife exhibition and tours launch at Chatham Historic Dockyard - the cast with the dockyard tour guides (14275482)

Meanwhile council regeneration director Richard Hicks firmly believes Medway has every reason to clinch the title.

He is confident the Towns can fight off stiff competition to win the accolade, which brings with it massive social and economic benefits.

The authority has to declare an interest to the government's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport by next February and submit its final bid in September.

It's the first time Medway has entered, but groundwork has already started with a close relationship forged with the 2021 holders Coventry, which is keen to "hand over the baton", according to Richard.

A steering group is committed to involving as many residents as possible from school children to pensioners.

Medway Council director of regeration Richard Hicks (14157554)
Medway Council director of regeration Richard Hicks (14157554)

And the 12,000-strong student community at our universities and colleges "will add to the vibrancy".

He said:"After all our future is rooted in young people.

"It's what we are doing for them in years to come. Medway is essentially five towns with communities in between making up the patchwork.

"This is a great opportunity to come together as Medway, to unleash the pride in where we live.

"With the Rochester Riverside, St Mary's Island, Dockside, Chatham Historic Dockyard as a premier tourist attraction and film location, the place is absolutely thriving.

"We also have the back story, the authenticity with our rich past, the castle, cathedral and dockyard."

Chatham Historic Dockyard's Festival of Steam and Transport (14275486)
Chatham Historic Dockyard's Festival of Steam and Transport (14275486)

"Medway's active arts and music scene is also expected to have input. There are things that we take for granted living here. It's only when your hear visitors walking past the cathedral and castle and saying 'wow'."

He added with the 33-minute commute to the capital as one national newspaper described it as "like living in London without the price tag".

"Yet we know we are not the finished article and still have our challenges, such as the high streets.

"But it is healthy to strive for more in the future."

While the initial cost of compiling a 100-page pitch will be met by the council, if successful grants from outside bodies will be forthcoming.

Arts Council England invested £5 million in Coventry to support preparation and individual artists can apply for funding through the National Lottery grants scheme.

Rochester Cathedral in Boley Hill (14275767)
Rochester Cathedral in Boley Hill (14275767)

National events like BBC's One Big Weekend music festival and programmes like Question Time will be held in the winning city.

He concluded: "To use a Dickens' analogy, Medway is the unfinished novel and being the City of Culture could be the next chapter."

The UK City of Culture is awarded for a period of one year, every four years.

Administered by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, it aims to build on the success of Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture 2008, which led to major social and economic benefits.

The winning city hosts an extensive range of cultural events during the 12-month period.

The first holder of the title was Derry-Londonderry in 2013, followed by Kingston upon Hull in 2017. In 2021, Coventry will play host.

So far, Medway is joined by Southampton, Luton, Lancashire, Tees Valley and Chelmsford in signalling an intention to bid. Once the actual bids are submitted, they will be examined with a winner declared in December 2021.

Background: How we first reported on the bid

Read more: All the latest news from Medway

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