Nottingham submits European Capital of Culture 2023 bid - embracing its 'Robin Hood spirit'

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Nottingham will draw on its heritage of rebellion, social justice and innovation in its bid to become the next UK European Capital of Culture in 2023.

The city will officially submit its bid to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport today (Friday, October 27), with the backing of stars from film, music, theatre and art, including Vicky McClure and Sleaford Mods.

Titled Nottingham 2023: Breaking the Frame, it sets out how the city – one of the youngest and most diverse in the UK, with an average age of 34 – will use its “Robin Hood spirit” to empower people to take culture back into their own hands.

Spearheading the bid is Nottingham’s Strategic Cultural Partnership, with support provided by Nottingham City Council, the University of Nottingham , Nottingham Trent University and Marketing NG.

It will compete with Belfast, Dundee, Leeds and Milton Keynes for the title – which has previously been awarded in the UK to Glasgow in 1990 and Liverpool in 2008 – with the winner expected to benefit from an economic boost worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

Paul Russ, chairman of the partnership and Nottingham 2023, said: “We want to share our energy, our activism, our diversity and our commitment to doing things differently through a cultural programme that involves every corner of Nottingham, every citizen and every visitor.

Paul Russ, chairman of the Nottingham 2023 board, speaks at the launch of the bid for the European Capital of Culture title in an event within a luminarium art sculpture at Sneinton Market

“We want to unlock the creativity in every school, housing estate, social club and former mining communities and give people the skills to improve the quality of their lives.”

Since announcing entry to the competition in August , almost 5,500 people have pledged their support through the Nottingham 2023 website and signing up at events.

In the process, people in the city have been asked what they would like to see change if it is crowned a European Capital of Culture.

Their answers have helped shape the bid, which also builds on a public consultation to define Nottingham’s strategic cultural framework earlier this year.

The title is inspired by the “frame-breakers” of the Luddite rebellion, which originated in Nottingham – then the global centre of the lace-making industry – in 1811.

The bid team said the common misconception of the Luddites is that they were anti-progress and anti-technology.

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But they were an organised labour movement, comprised of skilled craftsmen, supported by Lord Byron and inspired by the social justice of Robin Hood.

The Nottingham 2023 bid for the European Capital of Culture title is launched in an event within a luminarium art sculpture at Sneinton Market

Wanting fairness, they challenged how technology was being used and for whose advantage.

Nottingham 2023: Breaking the Frame will be the city’s latest experiment in radical cultural democracy.

It will seek to challenge how and where culture is made, what it means, who it is made for and who can make it – while reframing the city’s relationship with Europe in a post-Brexit world through creative collaboration.

Under two flagship programmes, Everyone is an Artist and Art Can Change the World, everyone in Nottingham will have the chance to take part in creative projects, while people from Europe will also be invited to take part.

People in housing estates, schools and community centres will be invited to work with European artists, while the scheme will also be linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals through a partnership with the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab.

Artistic highlights of the programme will include:

  • The Lace Pavilion, a major public art project and a new cultural tourism attraction in Nottingham, a visual and architectural hymn to lace and to trade networks, a space for exhibiting new textiles techniques and exploring international connections
  • In the home of Torvill and Dean, a series of “ice dances” will celebrate figure skating and the ‘ice spectacular’, bringing inventive European dance choreographers to create new dances, while an “ice mirror” will allow amateur skaters to connect with others across Europe
  • The European Luminaria Project - luminaria were originally conceived as well-being projects for socially excluded young people. Nottingham’s internationally renowned Architects of Air, whose workshop base is in St Ann’s, will develop a series of residency projects between local communities and partner communities in Europe to design and construct their own luminescent structures of colour and light

The Nottingham 2023 bid for the European Capital of Culture title is launched in an event within a luminarium art sculpture at Sneinton Market

  • Poetry, Protest and Participation, curated by Nottingham’s Young Poet Laureate and UNESCO City of Literature, will pair poets from diverse backgrounds across Nottingham with those from different European nations to explore all sides of the city’s culture
  • Inspired by Ada Lovelace and in partnership with Game City and European Women in Games, Diverse Digital DIY will bring together independent game makers, hackers and creative technologists to use technology as a creative force for storytelling and social change

Cultural figures backing the Nottingham 2023 bid including Vicky McClure, Joe Dempsie, Henry Normal, Jason Williamson, Wolfgang Buttress, Jenny Sealey and Jon McGregor.

All five of the city’s sports clubs have also pledged their support, while businesses involved include Annie’s Burger Shack, intu Victoria Centre, Raleigh, Santander, Nelsons Solicitors, NM Group and Nottingham Hospitality Association.

What is the History of the European Capital of Culture?

Board members of the Nottingham 2023 bid for the European Capital of Culture title gather at a launch event in Sneinton Market

The European Capital of Culture scheme was launched in 1985 and is managed by the European Union. Britain’s involvement in 2023 will not be affected by Brexit but its future inclusion is unclear.

It is not to be confused with the UK City of Culture scheme, currently hosted by Hull.

Title holders will organise a series of cultural events with a continental theme and aims to help foster urban regeneration, change the city’s image and raise its profile on an international scale.

When Liverpool hosted the contest in 2008, it estimated a return of £750m to the local economy from a £170m outlay and studies found that the number of residents who said they were “proud” to live in Liverpool increased by 82 percent.

Other previous winners include Berlin, Paris, Madrid, Lisbon, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Prague.

The UK winner in 2023 will share the honour with a Hungarian city.