Opinion - It's time that Sheffield bid to become a City of Culture, just like Bradford

I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling a little disappointed to see that Bradford has won its bid to be the UKs City of Culture 2025.

Wednesday, 1st June 2022, 4:51 pm

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for Bradford… it deserves it. It’s just a shame that Sheffield wasn’t fighting to be a part of this vital inroad towards more much-needed regeneration and investment. Sometimes, I can’t quite shake the suspicion that the city council seems to almost revel in being unambitious.

Harsh words, I know. But not without reason… 2013 was the last time Sheffield were in consideration to be the City of Culture UK 2013, unfortunately we were beaten by Derry — which let’s face it, if Derry Girls had been released at that time it would have been a cakewalk.

I wish that Sheffield was in the mix with these other cities, vying for investment, growth, regeneration, prosperity!

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The moment Bradford find's out they have been awarded 'City of Culture 2025' in Centenary Square. 31 May 2022. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Nine years ago, we beat 29 other applicants to make it to the final, even Sir Michael Palin came out with massive support for his home city at the time. His confidence summed up with four words, “Our time will come”. It steeled the city, a positivity that was evident in all statements at the time.

The city’s director of culture at the time, Paul Billington, said that the bid “has given us all a renewed pride in the culture of our city. We’re famed for hiding our light under a bushel, but this process has shown us that we have something to shout about.”

Almost a decade later, where has that passion and conviction gone?

Councillors and MPs will talk to great lengths of Levelling Up and investing in the future… others will say what happened to the best part of a decade for the city? I say, “I’ll believe it when I see it” – and dare I say many others would also. It seems to be a city of unfulfilled potential, bristling with a frustration at its leadership.

Some lament us being a City of Sanctuary, blaming migration on the city’s woes. Having such a label is an honour, we are a place that welcomes and strives to protect those in need — wherever they come from.

If that is not evidence of the wonderful gift of having such a blend of multiple cultures, races, religions, communities, well, I don’t know what is.

We have plenty of things happening in the city, good and bad depending on who you ask or where you look.

This passage from the City of Culture Guidance for bidding cities puts it neatly:

“The UK City of Culture is more than just a title: it is an opportunity to bring communities together, build local pride, develop new partnerships, and attract tourists from across the UK and beyond.”

“But, most importantly, it is an opportunity to enable significant regeneration in a city, town or area.”

Perhaps it’s time for Sheffield to put forward a bid to become a City of Culture, celebrate our wider collective and let’s regenerate and prosper as one.

I’d love to see us see that passion again, not just words for public consumption and agreeable head nods, we need to be shouting out from the rooftops about the good things here… let’s put this city on the map again.