Backing bid to be culture city
by Alan Thompson
More than 150 people representing businesses and organisations answered mayor Sir Peter Soulsby's call to get behind Leicester's UK City of Culture bid.
In two briefing sessions at Curve this week, Sir Peter and his bid team told representatives of business, arts, faith and other organisations involved in the cultural life of the city about the latest stage of the bid.
Leicester is seeking to become the UK City of Culture in 2017.
The city's initial bid will be submitted on April 30 and the final entry in September.
At least £10 million will be needed to stage a UK City of Culture programme, according to the Government.
Leicester is one of 11 areas hoping to successfully bid for the title, held by Londonderry, in Northern Ireland.
Neil Peterson, one of the bid writers told the audience: "When Liverpool was European Capital of Culture, £120 million was spent over five years. It brought in £800 million in additional economic benefits.
"People go to places other than Leicester. It isn't as well known for its attributes as it should be. Overall, it has so much to offer. It has an outstanding cultural offer.
"A successful bid could offer significant long-term economic impact."
Artist Ashok Mistry said: "I am born and bred and work in the city. Whatever we put together needs to be artist-led – and from the heart."
George Ballentyne, of Leicester Council of Faiths, said: "I experienced Glasgow as the European City of Culture. It signalled a renaissance of the city which kick-started it as an ongoing city of culture."
Mr Ballentyne, who took his 11-year-old daughter Grace and son Harry, 12, to the meeting, said: "We need to engage people in this age group now and co-opt them in the creative processes. From now until 2017 is a huge gap in the life of a young person."
City councillor Ted Cassidy said: "There is a huge opportunity over the next five years, bringing together grassroots and young artists, people making things happen in the city. Don't let's wait until 2017."
City councillor Susan Barton said: "Leicester is already a city of culture.
"We need to make sure everyone outside Leicester knows about it as well."