DURHAM’S ambitious bid to become Britain’s Culture Capital received a double boost yesterday.
Three visitor magnets in the city announced a credit crunch-busting start to 2009, while culture minister Andy Burnham said plans were now well underway to stage a British City of Culture competition – although the first city to have the honour bestowed upon it would have to wait until 2013, and not 2011 as at first thought. Crook Hall and Gardens, the Prince Bishops River Cruises and Durham Indoor Markets, all based in Durham, said the Easter weekend has helped them begin this tourism year with a bang.
Maggie Bell, owner of Crook Hall and Gardens on the banks of the River Wear overlooking the City’s Norman Cathedral, said she was fully behind Durham’s City of Culture bid. She said: “The Easter period has proved to be wonderful for the newly refurbished Crook Hall and Gardens.
“The decent weather and all of our joint working to get visitors through the doors has really helped us. We’ve actually had double the numbers of customers coming through our gates compared to Easter 2008.
“More people are seeing what Durham has to offer and that can only be advantageous for the Capital of Culture bid.”
Durham’s long-established indoor market –situated just off the historic marketplace in the very heart of the City – similarly report increased numbers of customers during the first quarter of 2009.
And the experience of a Prince Bishops River Cruise on the River Wear is also more popular than ever.
Jamie Robson, director of the Prince Bishops River Cruises, said: “This year so far we have seen increased numbers, more passengers on board, extra enquiries and a lot more activity generally. Even the ice creams we sell are great demand and that is always a sign of a successful day out in Durham.”
Durham County Council has already signaled its ambition to champion the cause of Durham City in a new government competition which stems from the success of Liverpool as European Capital of Culture. A successful bid would be based around Durham City, which would act as a hub and focal point for the whole of the region.
Yesterday Mr Burnham, Secretary of State for Culture, said cabinet ambassador Phil Redmond would shortly be reporting on his expert working group’s investigations into a UK City of Culture award. He said: “Following the impact on Liverpool of European Capital of Culture in 2008, the working group has been looking at how a UK-wide award might be used to capture similar benefits.
“Each winning city would be the one with the best plans for staging major annual cultural events and the best vision for how the award will inspire its citizens and transform its prospects.”
Charter encourages more filming in North East
A BID is being made to bring more film and TV production to the region with the signing of Northern Film & Media’s Filming Friendly Charter by Durham County Council.
Tom Harvey, chief executive of Northern Film & Media, is signing the partnership document with Coun Simon Henig, Leader of Durham County Council at County Hall. The Charter represents an agreement between Northern Film & Media and Durham County Council to offer visiting film and TV productions a positive experience and co-operation while shooting in the region.
Mr Harvey said: "At a time when our region has seen a loss of network TV production and a reduction in the figures spent by visiting film production, we need to work harder with all of our partners to become more attractive as a region. I’m extremely pleased that Durham County Council has agreed to work in close partnership with us to help try and turn this situation around. The region already has the world-class locations, but we need to make it quicker, easier and cheaper – more attractive – for production companies to shoot here. The signing is a major part of that strategy."
Coun Henig said: "The Filming Friendly Partnership offers the potential for real economic advantages and the chance to promote the city and the county of Durham often on a global scale. Filming itself can mean local services being used and employment opportunities for local people, and we certainly want to be involved in that. It also offers a great opportunity to promote the area to a huge audience."
The Charter, along with the guides and support seminars hosted by Northern Film & Media, equips local authorities with the knowledge to deal with production effectively when filming takes place in their region and also reap the many benefits it can bring.
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