County Durham’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2025 has the power to bring transformational social and economic benefits to the entire North East, according to the partnership driving forward the campaign.

The message coincides with an announcement from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport listing the names of the 20 locations across the UK that have expressed an interest in the prestigious title.

It also comes as more and more business leaders, arts organisations and individuals from across the region voice their support for County Durham.

This is the first year submissions can cover county areas as well as cities, which has led to a record number of entries. Durham’s bid incorporates the whole county, providing an opportunity to showcase and develop the area’s diverse cultural offer – from its varied landscapes and rich heritage, to its inclusive arts scene, vibrant communities and pioneering academic research.

The initial bid was submitted by Durham County Council, with principal partner Durham University, on behalf of Culture Durham. This is a partnership of organisations, including Beamish Museum, the Auckland Project and other public, private and voluntary organisations that share the same belief in the power of culture to transform lives.

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “Becoming UK City of Culture 2025 would not only enrich the lives of our communities by creating new and exciting cultural activities, it would boost our economy, significantly increase visitor numbers, both in County Durham and the wider region, and lead to additional investment and new employment opportunities.

“Hull was UK City of Culture in 2017 and the figures speak for themselves. City of Culture was directly responsible for almost £90 million of investment in the city and a ten per cent increase in tourism.

“In County Durham, we know that if we increase the number of visitors staying overnight from eight per cent to 16 per cent, we can boost our economy by £415 million.

“We recognise that culture and tourism will play a crucial role in our recovery from the impact of the pandemic, and we have a longstanding commitment to culture-led regeneration.

“UK City of Culture status would support these efforts by raising our profile nationally. In fact, this is already happening, with the #Durham2025 campaign providing a platform for us all to shout about what makes our county great.”

Glyn Llewellyn, chair County Durham Economic Partnership, is among those who have written letters of support backing the campaign.

He said: “Obtaining the accolade of UK City of Culture would enable us to drive forward a strong vision for the future of County Durham across cultural led economic growth, innovation and skills development. The people of the county are our greatest assets. I have never encountered the sense of community that exists in County Durham anywhere else and we need to harness that spirit and work together to rebuild a powerful economy.”

Professor Antony Long, Acting Vice-Chancellor and Warden, Durham University, said: “Gaining City of Culture status would be a gamechanger for a region poised for renewal. It would be an outstanding vehicle to broaden, strengthen and energise the connections our university has to organisations, charities and grassroots communities across the county; it would allow us to do even more to share our knowledge and talent for the benefit of the whole county.”

Ivor Stolliday, Chair of Visit County Durham, said: “Success would bring more chances for individuals and communities to engage in arts, culture and heritage, bringing people together and inspiring local pride. The importance of what this would mean for our places, our people and our future cannot be overstated, it would have untold benefits for the county, and the impact on the wider region would be substantial.”

Jan Williams, North East England Blue Badge Guide, said: “This is not a county which lets the grass grow beneath its feet. Becoming UK City of Culture will provide a catalyst to drive forward the next stage in County Durham’s transformation. Every business will have at its disposal a platform from which to tell the story of County Durham to the UK and beyond.”

The winning location will be announced in May 2022, with the twenty bidders reduced to an initial long list next month and a final shortlist announced in early 2022.

To find out more about County Durham’s bid and to leave messages of support, visit www.durham2025.co.uk and follow @Durham2025 on Facebook and @Durham_2025 on Twitter.

Members of the public can also support the campaign by sharing pictures of their favourite County Durham places on social media with the hashtag #Durham2025.