22nd January 2017
By Rashleigh MacFarlane

Truro could find itself at the centre of a Cornwall Council bid to become a European Capital of Culture, if councillors back a £536,000 gamble when their ruling cabinet meets on Wednesday.

If successful, Truro would be crowned the jewel in the European Union’s cultural crown in 2023 – even though, by then, the United Kingdom would almost certainly no longer be an EU member, following last year’s Brexit referendum.

Cornwall rejected EU membership by a larger majority than most parts of the UK, with more than 56% voting to leave.  Council officials nevertheless seem to take an optimistic view of the EU judges’ forgiving nature when it comes to cultural recognition.

Cornwall has been trying to win the award since at least 2008 but previous bids have always come to nothing.  Recommending another try, officials are now seeking more than £1/2 million to back the attempt.  If successful, they argue, the economic benefits represent an 8-1 return on investment.  Visit Cornwall has estimated that the award “would bring an additional 984,000 visitors to Cornwall, generating £109m additional visitor spend, supporting 2,193 additional jobs.”

The giant Man Engine puppet was a big draw when it toured Cornwall last year

The officials’ report to Wednesday’s meeting says: “The purpose of bidding for ECoC (European City of Culture) is to win the competition and deliver a year-long celebration of Cornish culture which showcases Cornwall to the world and delivers significant social and economic benefits. The intended outcome is to generate significant economic value for the Cornish economy. It is reasonable to assume that the economic impact of winning the competition could be circa £100m over the course of the year.

“Cornwall Council would lead the consortium of partners including Falmouth University, Visit Cornwall, Tate, the LEP, and Cornwall Museum Partnership.  However, winning the competition will not be easy and the ECoC bid should strive to deliver tangible outcomes whether the bid is successful or


not. This will include a programme of creative content, marketing Cornwall and commissioning cultural work which has a significant economic and social impact.”

Officials want backing for their suggestion that full details of a bid be prepared for further discussion in October.

Considering the risks associated with any bid, the report adds: “The competition to be ECoC is always highly competitive and Cabinet should be aware that a number of UK cities have already committed to bid and have been working on their applications for a considerable length of time.

“Competition is likely to come from: Leeds, Dundee and Milton Keynes. It is possible other cities will also bid.

“The Truro-Cornwall proposition will be unusual. Whilst previous awards have been given to smaller cities and their wider regions a successful award would set a new bar in terms of the scale of city capable of fronting an ECOC proposal.

“This gives us a clear USP within the UK long-listing process but provides us with the challenge of demonstrating to the EU panel that we have a credible, serious proposal that can deliver the levels of audience reach and economic impacts normally associated with larger metropolitan awards.

“However, ultimately, the bid may be unsuccessful.  The average ECOC bid takes 2 years. Cornwall will have less than 9 months from start to finish.”

A display board promoting Cornwall's ambition is already on display at County Hall, Truro