What is a “city”?

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Last week, the list of those areas applying to be the UK City of Culture in 2025 was announced. We listed the full twenty applicants last Monday

A big tourist attraction in the Borders – Floors Castle which hosts a set of Gobelin tapestries near Kelso © Floors Castle

When the geographical definition of what could enter was altered, back in 2017 when St David’s – the smallest city in the UK applied to become UK City of Culture 2021 – Just about Travel, wondered whether small cities were at a disadvantage compared to large ones

That doubt has ended with new rules that allow areas to join together in their bids.

But has that rule change made that idea of a “city” of culture completely fatuous?

The list of twenty areas that have nominated includes not just a group of towns like Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon in Northern Ireland to band together but whole counties like Lancashire, Powys and Cornwall.

Should large geographic areas complete against smaller entities?

Take the largest appliacnt in terms of geogrpahy, the Scottish Borders which has teamed with Dumfries and Galloway, Cumbria and Northumberland to enter as one group? That it straddles two countries is of interest but probably just to nationalists of one hue or another.

By my calculations the area covers over 8,250 square miles and is about twice the size of either Cyprus or Jamaica.

lake District
The same applicant includes the Lake District with its Wordsworth and Potter connections

Does that area lumped together form a single cultural entity in the eyes of many? If it doesn’t matter, why not just have a cultural Olympics for the whole of the UK each four years?

The purpose of the UK city of culture scheme was to celebrate, support and expand the cultural activities of a geographic entity and the application by this area fulfils that.

But allied, though often unsaid, is the belief that whichever are wins will attract visitors and tourists who will bring economic gains to the area for years to come.

Can such a wide area attract tourists which will spread evenly throughout such a wide area or will just major towns and cities predominate? If that happens could the smaller areas lose out and derive little or no benefit from the scheme? If the scheme is to continue both the winning entrants must ensure that doesn’t happen.

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