Norwich has decided to enter a bid to be European Capital of Culture 2008. All right ? now, will everyone stop laughing and settle down, requests Graeme Howell. Honestly it?s true.
Norwich City Council, after the great publicity successes of banning bouncy castles, window boxes and conker trees, as well as winning the competition for having the country?s shortest section of double yellow lines (a stunning 35 inches), feels this ?fine city? is in need of some positive PR.
So far a champions group has been formed which contains some of the region?s great and good. It is their job to persuade the rest of the city that this is something worth the time and trouble. There is also an artistic group which will have the job of coming up with the ideas that will convince the rest of the country that Norwich is a true city of culture. A press and advertising agency has been contracted and briefed and will be coming up with a slogan that is better than the region?s most recent effort ?space for ideas?, which to me just seems to conjure up an image of a dark void.
If Norwich is to have a chance of reaching the shortlist, it has to make a unique bid that celebrates its relative rural isolation and makes a virtue of the possibilities that this throws up. When you start to dig below the surface this isn?t as crazy as it might seem: Norwich boasts the regional headquarters of the BBC and Anglia TV; it has the most dynamic creative writing faculty in the nation headed up by the poet laureate; it is a place that visual artists gravitate towards because of the quality of Norfolk?s light; it has the second oldest arts festival in England; it is about to open the most high-tech library in the land; it has recently refurbished the Castle Museum which is now featuring Tate shows in its programme; there are long historic links with Norway and Holland; and finally, it is home to high-profile celebrities including Delia Smith and Stephen Fry. But what if, after all this investment of time we lose (perish the thought)?
In a lot of ways we can?t lose. Even if, against all logic, we fail to even make it on to a shortlist, the arts sector of Norwich stands to gain a lot. People who can actually make a difference seem to be sitting down in the same room and are genuinely exploring collaborative approaches to life. Programmers are getting together for some blue sky thinking and, as a marketing manager, I am going weak at the knees over all the audience development possibilities.
It?s a bit like Britain in Bloom ? in the end somewhere wins, but everywhere that took part ends up looking prettier.
Graeme Howell is Marketing Manager of Norfolk and Norwich Festival. t: 01603 614921; e: email@example.com