Published: 00:01, 29 May 2021
| Updated: 19:02, 29 May 2021
The starting pistol has been fired in the race to become the UK City of Culture in 2025.
Medway is aiming to be named the first area in the south east to win the coveted prize.
The Medway 2025 video
The competition is led by the government's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). It wants the contest to be a "catalyst for levelling up areas outside London by putting culture at the heart of plans to recover from the impact of the pandemic".
Although it has "city" in its title, entrants can be any large geographical area in the country.
They need to present a strong and unique vision for their future growth, celebrating local heritage, using culture to bring communities together to build a sense of place and inspire local pride.
Bidders will also be asked to demonstrate how investment in culture and creativity will drive growth, how they will open up access to culture and to develop partnerships and celebrate links with places across the UK.
Winning would see the Towns mount a year-long creative programme across the whole geography of Medway, turning its green spaces, high streets, stadiums and shopping centres into galleries and theatres, showcasing local, regional and UK creative talent.
Jatin Patel is co-chairman of the Medway 2025 trustees and creative director at local fashion studio Kalikas Armour.
He said: “From Zandra Rhodes, Charles Dickens and Pete Tong, Medway has always been the home to people who see the world differently and are not afraid express themselves.
"We’re innovators, inventors and 'ideas people’ here. You can see that in our cultural community, the businesses that operate here and in the cutting-edge research that takes place here.
"As home to the Royal Engineers, a former navy town, a place where one on five people used to work at the dockyard, we understand things happen when people pull together.
"That’s exactly what Medway is doing now, we have a vision for our future that goes way beyond 2025.”
Being city of culture would bring Medway alive in a celebration of the people, creativity and history that makes the area unique as well as delivering positive outcomes for local people and places.
Some 95% of the population of previous title holder Hull took part over the course of the year.
Medway resident and foster parent, Sharon Jackson, said: “Medway has always had a lot to say for itself, we’re a bit gobby here but that’s our strength.
"I think people are surprised we’re in the running to be city of culture, Medway hasn’t always had the best reputation but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot to be proud of.
"We don’t have to be like other places to be city of culture, we can do this our way, it’s about real culture for real people. Why shouldn’t we be city of culture?”
Leader of Medway Council, Cllr Alan Jarrett (Con), said: “I am delighted that the competition to find the next UK City of Culture 2025 has now launched.
"We proudly announced Medway’s aspiration to bid for the prestigious title at Rochester Castle in July 2019 and since then many of Medway’s residents, businesses and partners have helped shape our bid.
"Our ambition is to become the first place in the south-east to win the title of UK City of Culture.
Medway's bid director Imogen Robertson talks to kmtv
“We have a bold and ambitious vision for the future of Medway and we believe that culture plays a pivotal part in making this vision a reality, inspiring our communities.
“We are very proud of Medway’s rich heritage and our thriving cultural and creative sector; winning UK City of Culture 2025 would allow us to write a new and exciting chapter in Medway’s history.
"In particular, it would give our young people the opportunity to shape what we do, create a legacy of opportunities for all our residents, bring significant benefits to Medway and the wider Kent area and showcase all we have to offer.
“We have an impressive Cultural Strategy in place and by 2030 we want Medway to be internationally recognised for its creativity and culture, bringing positive benefits to everyone’s everyday lives.
"We want to celebrate the diversity, resilience and creativity of all our residents, and appreciate how culture enriches our daily lives.
“The City of Culture bid will further establish Medway as a great place where people are proud to live, work, learn and visit and there is so much to be proud of.
“In the meantime, we wish our friends in Coventry a very successful year for their UK City of Culture 2021 and we look forward to watching all the fantastic events and activities they have planned.”
The winner will take the baton from Coventry which has just begun its year. It is expected it will experience a significant boost in visitor numbers and economic investment with more than £110 million in additional cash secured for the 2018 to 2022 period.
The programme aims to attract around 5,000 volunteers and create more than 900 jobs.
Its winning bid has led to millions in investment been made across public spaces and the city centre, described by one councillor as the biggest revamp in his lifetime.
Other known 2025 bidders are Southampton, Lancashire and Bradford, with more areas likely to enter the race as well.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “This is a fantastic showcase of the huge impact culture has.
"From Derry-Londonderry, to Hull and Coventry, previous winners have shown how the competition can deliver greater cultural participation, drive economic regeneration and boost local pride.
"I encourage towns and cities across the UK to put forward bids for 2025 and champion their local arts and culture scene."
The first city to take up the mantle was Derry-Londonderry in 2013, followed by Hull in 2017.
The title attracted millions of visitors and drew in significant investments for both cities.
The cultural programmes have had a lasting positive impact on local people, with surveys showing that communities felt prouder and more positive about the place they live after their city of culture year.
Bidding for the title in its own right can have a hugely positive impact – helping to bring partners together and develop strategic cultural leadership.
To encourage as many places as possible to bid, the DCMS will offer funding of up to £40,000 to up to six long-listed places to help develop their applications.
The bids for the 2025 title will be assessed by an independent 11-person panel chaired by Sir Phil Redmond.
They will visit the shortlisted cities – to be announced later this year – before each city or town makes a final pitch.
The winner will be announced next spring.
To find out more about Medway’s bid, follow it on social media – @Medway2025 – or click here.