Updated: Capital of Culture Bid – we'll celebrate it, even if Radio Cornwall won't…

The cabinet of Cornwall has today overwhelmingly approved Cornwall’s bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2023.

We think it’s an incredibly positive and confident move that will show our beloved Cornwall off around the world, with our own take on our own culture taking centre stage for once, showcasing one of our most productive and vibrant industries that is already a major contributer to both our internal and export economies. To be clear, Cornwall is already a world leader in Creative Industries and even if the bid is unsuccesful in the end, the actual process will bring a bright spotlight on our brightest talent and bring a heightened sense of creativity and a renewed sense of energy to the modern culture of Cornwall.

Friends who work out of one of Cornwall’s most vibrant Arts hub, Krowji in Redruth talked of the “firm cheer around the offices” when news broke at lunchtime today that the Council are willing to invedt the half a million pounds it will take to prepare the bid, which has to be in by October this year.

Welcoming the decision Julian German, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy and Culture, said “Cornwall’s culture is world class and our ambition is to provide a platform for our writers, performers, artists, poets, producers, designers, musicians, software coders and cultural entrepreneurs to tell our story to the world. Our bid will respect the past, but it will be about the opportunities of the present and our ambitions for the future.”

CornishStuff ran the story before Christmas that this bid was to be attempted but today, in what seems like a Tory whipped frenzy, BBC Cornwall wad awash with a fair bit of fashionable “alternative facts” based on poor research and political point scoring.  It’s listeners got hot under the collar when they were told repeatedly of the ‘waste of money’ the bid will become.

Julian German the Portfolio Holder for Economy and Culture  at Cornwall Council (hint: the council agree that our culture and our economy are so intertwined it’s under one portfolio) and the person responsible for driving through the proposal was needed to appear twice on air to justify the spend on Cornwall’s culture and to try and defend our culture and the good name of the city of Truro against the tide of negativity and derision coming over the airwaves and online. So many people put Cornwall down, saying that Cornwall couldn’t possibly be good enough or have enough cultural activities to justify a bid.

Well we disagree.

We think the Cornish culture is strong enough and confident enough to carry this bid. We think Cornwall is the best place in the world and you’ll never hear us say how crap it is or it’s got nothing to offer. And we’ve got the people and the talent to pull this off. “Here’s men as good as you”.

On the Radio Cornwall breakfast show James Churchfield genuinely asked a dismayed and aghast Mr German “So what culture has Cornwall got?”

Lets clear up some of the more common ‘mis-truths’

It’s not just about Truro: you just need a city to be part of the bid and Truro is our only city, our capital city. This award used to be called the European City of Culture. Following a bid by Cornwall, along with others that started 10 or more years ago to change that to Region of Culture (which was disallowed) they changed the rules to basically allow a larger radius around a city – luckily for us the whole of Cornwall fits in that radius so we can now bid. it’s now called the Capital of Culture.

Cornwall Council is spending the money on this rather than toilets and potholes:  The choice of where to spend money is departmentalised. The spending for next year has already been decided and the £0.5m it will take to launch the bid comes from the designated Investment budget. It’s not magic new money. This is a choice that the council makes on a strategic level and toilets and potholes come out of a different budget. The council hasn’t got any money because of government cuts. If you want to blame someone for your village toilet closing down, blame the current Government. You can’t give someone £1 and then blame them for not spending £10.

We’re leaving the EU how can we bid for this? Well, the thing is the government confirmed the bidding for this after the referendum and has invited people to bid, which indicates they expect the award to be honoured. Cornwall has held back bidding until thus uncertainty was cleared up. Previous winners have come from outside the EU.

We’ll face stiff competition from across Europe: Wrong. The award is dished out annually to different countries. 2023 was given to the UK, so only UK cities can bid for the 2023 award. Milton Keynes, Leeds and Dundee are the declared competition so far and councils in the “south west” are giving Cornwall an unopposed run at it. We’ve got a really good chance of winning it.

There’s not enough time: Actually the groundwork and preparations for this bid have been going on for at least 10 years from when we tried to be a Region of Culture.

Nobody supports this: Everybody from the Chamber of Commerce to the University to the Museums to the BIDS have offered overwhelming support. 200 institutions sent letters of support and those were presented to the cabinet.

We aren’t good or talented enough to achieve this.  The Tamar Bridge is that way.

“We have preparing the groundwork for this bid for over a decade “added Julian German.  “Cornwall consistently punches above its weight and there has never been a better time for us to celebrate our success.  We have the best connected rural broadband network in Europe, the UK’s number one Arts University, brave theatre companies like Kneehigh, WildWorks and Rogue, internationally renowned visual artists and innovative cultural entrepreneurs from East to West.

“Last summer’s Man Engine spectacle proved what we can achieve when we combine the story of our past with our ability to imagine, engineer and engage. Over 140,000 people saw the Man Engine live and it reached over 112,000,000 people across the globe via our digital connectivity.

“By 2023 we will have doubled the gallery space at Tate in St Ives, rebuilt the Hall for Cornwall and opened a world class archive in Redruth; GROUNDWORK will have explored a new programme of visual art practice and FEAST, our wonderful community arts scheme, will have reached a 1000 communities. All the building blocks for an incredible year long celebration of our arts and culture will be in place.”   

“Cornwall has a cultural history and a vibrant contemporary enjoyment of its culture like nowhere else in Britain” said Kim Conchie, Chief Executive of the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce. “Placing Truro at the heart of what will, no doubt, be a Cornwall-wide celebration and showcase of all that’s going on here will be amazing both for people who live and work here and love its uniqueness, and for the four million people who visit us each year for a taste of what we have to offer.

Julian German spoke to CS after the cabinet had made its decision today.

“This will make us walk a bit taller, feel better about ourselves and Cornwall”

“We’ve increased the social care budget, we’ve put more money into road maintenance, potholes and stuff, so it’s not that we are not doing that but this is all about our confidence”

“It’s a big strategic decision. Do we want to support our economy and culture, do we want to invest in that and attract money into Cornwall? The Economy and Culture budget is now £5m a year and we took £1m out when we ceased funding Visit Cornwall, which was a significant change so it’s not that we are not up for saving money and doing things differently. But we decided as a Council to use that money to invest in Cornwall. So it’s up to Council, we could decide to put that £5m into something else. We could say no we don’t want to do economic development and culture, we’ll put that £5m into eg Adult Social Care but this council has always taken the view that investment is really important. As Jeremy Rowe and John Pollard pointed out in the cabinet meeting, we need to invest”

“Part of what I said to Cabinet was that we are investing to create employment and prosperity so that we can pay those taxes to pay for our public services. If we are not making any investment, if we haven’t got any ambition, then we’ll enter a spiral of decline”

“It’ll be great for our young people, with all whats going on around digital tech, gaming –  all these things are intrinsically linked. It’s quite possible that digital will play a really big role in the bid, because of the way culture and creativity is moving”

The case against bid to be Capital of Culture, and to spend the money to do so has been led by the Cornwall Tory Group, especially James Mustoe the young and energetic councillor from Mevagissey and Fiona Ferguson, councillor for Truro Trehaverne and spokesperson on Finance and Resources. She’s labelled the bid a “vanity project” and called it a “£536,000 flutter”.

Julyan German said of her comments “It’s interesting for Fiona, because in a sense she’s doing down her own ward. She’s a Truro councillor, and she’s saying ‘we don’t think Truro has got enough to offer, we don’t want a fantastic international accolade’. Really?”

Meanwhile Truro Mayor Rob Nolan has confused many people with his pronouncement at full council and on Radio Cornwall that he, as Mayor of Truro, did not know about the bid until he read it in a local newspaper.

First, he should read CS more cause as we said we reported this back in December.

However it makes you wonder if Rob Nolan is talking to the right people or indeed do the right people think Rob Nolan important enough to involve in the conversation?

The Truro Mayor and Truro City councillor and Lib Dem PPC must answer whether he’s genuine that the first he heard of the bid was in the media? Or is it that he is being deliberately kept out of the loop on his own patch?

Certainly Rob’s Liberal Democrat colleagues were all supportive at the cabinet meeting today and when CS met Lib Dem leader Tim Farron in Truro this morning he expressed support for the bid and mentioned what a great thing it would be for Cornish identity and highlighted the economic legacy that other capital of cultures (eg Liverpool, Belfast) have enjoyed to this day.

Julyan German again: “Truro City Council have sent us a note expressing their support. Rob is the Mayor of Truro City Council. We also had support from Truro BID, Royal Cornwall Museum, Hall for Cornwall amongst others so the institutions and businesses of Truro are saying bring it on, so it seems odd that the Mayor has said what he has”

The Truro-Cornwall bid for European Capital of Culture will be formally launched on 3 March.