Perth is still the Place

Perth may not have been successful in being shortlisted for the title of UK City of Culture 2021, but its bid highlighted the unique challenges facing the UK’s small cities, towns and rural areas, said city leaders tonight.

Councillor Ian Campbell, Leader of Perth & Kinross Council, said, “Perth is a small city with huge ambitions, and the experience of developing our bid has absolutely cemented our conviction that we can achieve these.

“This is in no small part thanks to everyone who was involved in the mammoth task of putting together our stage 1 bid. This was a process that started a year ago, when we first approached communities and asked them what they wanted to celebrate, share and change about Perth. You responded magnificently, with support, inspiration and suggestions. Thank you to each and every one of you.

“Obviously it’s disappointing that we haven’t been shortlisted. We always knew that our offer was different to those of the traditional UK City of Culture entries, and this is reflected in the shortlist, but our bid was pioneering. The issues we face may not be those of a large, post-industrial city, but what we have highlighted is that the challenges of the UK’s small cities, towns and rural areas are no less significant. These are the challenges of improving transport and digital connectivity, overcoming social isolation, tackling a low-wage economy and retaining young talent: real issues, which are sometimes not immediately apparent.

“These issues are a reality for the 30 million people in the UK who don’t live in a big city, and we think there is a real opportunity for us to work together with other small cities to tackle these. The Minister has asked to meet with us because of the issues raised in our bid, and we intend to lead the way in building an alliance of small cities to work together on these.

“Of course there are also real opportunities from this experience for Perth itself, and the wider Perth and Kinross area. There is much to celebrate about what we have achieved so far, and many of the ideas put forward will be taken forward. The Council and its partners are deeply committed to the cultural regeneration of the area. £53 million has already been committed to projects including the transformation of City Hall and the refurbishment of the Theatre and Perth Museum and Art Gallery. In just a few days there will be a public consultation event on plans for the former St John’s Primary School to become a Creative Exchange offering office facilities to creative start-ups. All of these projects, and more, will go ahead.

“I’m glad a Scottish contender is still in the running: congratulations to Paisley, which has the full support of the Perth2021 team. They are running a fantastic campaign and have done a great job of raising the profile of the area.”

Perth & Kinross Council Chief Executive Bernadette Malone added, “The process of bidding for UK City of Culture has taught us a lot. We entered this competition clear about the benefits it would bring for the regeneration and growth of Perth. While we are saddened to be leaving the competition at this stage, the connections we have made, and the experience this has given us has given us has helped us to put together strong bids for other events and funding, including the Tay Cities Deal and the Great Places Scheme.  This means that the bidding process itself has secured a great return on the investment put in to entering the competition.

“There is immeasurable value, too, in the publicity and profile gained from the bidding process. Over 40 community projects have received funding from the bid’s Creative Communities Fund. Our already popular events programme has grown: in the coming months we will welcome the return of the Rewind and Southern Fried festivals; the Perth Show, half marathon and Highland Games are bigger and better than ever; and we are introducing the Perth City Salute – our own take on Edinburgh’s world famous Tattoo. 2018 will see Perthshire host the European Golf Championships, while the following year the best women golfers in the world will be competing here in the Solheim Cup. And we have other exciting announcements still to come!

“Our aspiration for Perth to be seen as one of Europe’s great small cities remains. We know we can get there and, with your support, we will.”