An awful lot of effort and time, not to mention money, is being poured into the bidding process to become European Capital of Culture 2008 (pages 5-7).
Given the impact of the title on the winning city ? ?boosts tourism, promotes economic development and regeneration, develops communities, delivers social inclusion...?, according to Andrew Kelly, Director of the Bristol bid ? it is hardly surprising that 13 cities have already thrown their hats into the ring. But do all 13 really believe that they are truly in with a chance of winning the coveted title? For example, is our prime minister really likely to present Milton Keynes to the EU as the cultural epicentre of the UK? Great strides forward have certainly been taken there, as memories of the 1970s concrete cows fade away, and the new theatre and gallery boast healthy audiences, but with all due respect to MK, it is not somewhere that would normally be mentioned in the same breath as Berlin, Copenhagen, Paris..., cities chosen by his European counterparts in the past. Furthermore, rumour has it (so it must be true) that the Newcastle/Gateshead bid is a sure-fire winner, given that £1bn worth of development is already underway. What better way to show it off to the rest of Europe, and how convenient for Tony Blair that his very own constituency is not a million miles away.
But whoever ends up winning or losing, Graeme Howell, ? spearheading Norwich?s bid (p7), and recognising that there is just an outside chance that Norwich won?t win ? puts his finger on the importance of the competition. It?s the process, not the result, that is going to make such a difference to those cities taking part. ?People who can actually make a difference seem to be sitting down in the same room and are genuinely exploring collaborative approaches to life?, he says. Mike Wilson, working on the Belfast bid, echoes this sentiment (p7).?Belfast is already reaping rewards from the bidding process,? he says. So just in case we are tempted to sneer at some of the runners and riders in this latest international PR exercise, let?s not forget that, by the end of the bidding process, they will probably be several steps further ahead in their cultural development planning than other cities in the country.