December 2, 2021

Closing this month’s issue of North East Times, Helen Marriage, director of arts production company Artichoke, which has just overseen the latest instalment of the bi-annual Lumiere light spectacular in County Durham, looks at the area’s UK City of Culture 2025 bid*, explains why it stands more than a strong chance of being successful, and exclusively confirms Lumiere will return in 2023.

How important is County Durham’s UK City of Culture 2025 bid to the area? And what do you think the short and long-term economic benefits might be for the city, its surrounding towns and villages, and their residents?

The bid would be wonderful recognition of all the work that has gone on in the city and county over the last two decades to embed culture in the life of the people of County Durham.

From the developments at Bishop Auckland to the Locomotion museum, from renowned brass and book festivals and from cycling tours to the exploration of the dark skies, Durham has put culture front and centre in the life of its residents. We know from Lumiere that an investment in culture brings huge benefits, both economic and social.

Since the beginning of Lumiere in 2009, the festival has generated more than £40 million in benefits for the city and county, and that’s only set to grow.

Each year, more and more people attend, spending money in hotels, shops and restaurants, while the festival itself invests in local businesses, local jobs and local people.

What will the County Durham bid have to prove to judges to beat off competition from across the rest of the UK, and what will set Durham apart from those areas?

County Durham will have to create a unique vision.

It’s already way ahead, though, because, unlike most candidates, the Durham bid embraces both the city and county.

The variety of landscape, history and characters to be found across the county is unrivalled.

Durham really does live up to its title – a county like no other.

What role will a successful Lumiere 2021 play in the County Durham bid? And can we expect a Lumiere 2023?

The timing of Lumiere was very useful, as the judges were able to see a huge event, embedded in its community, playing out across the city and county.

Many visitors will think that the installations they see on display are the only thing the festival does – and, at 37, they might think that’s more than enough!

But behind the scenes there are hundreds of people at work: artists, crew, volunteers, stewards, security, administrators, partners in all council departments, as well as in the blue light services.

It’s a huge collaborative venture that embraces hundreds
of participants from across the community, who have been working for months to play their part in this extraordinary spectacle, including 35 schools and more than 600 individuals.

Lumiere is a demonstration of the cultural vision of County Durham.

And yes, we’ll be back in 2023!