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Thursday, 4 April, 2002, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
Vote: A UK cultural capital
Photomontage of Capital of Culture 2008 cities
Twelve UK cities are vying to be the European Capital of Culture 2008. Which do you think deserves the title? Your votes will decide our shortlist of three, and we'll report back on what the contenders have to offer.

To be crowned European Capital of Culture is widely viewed as a ticket to economic regeneration and a licence to print tourist pounds.

EU member states take it in turns to nominate a city, and it falls to the UK in 2008 - the first time since Glasgow took the title in 1990. Now the contenders have submitted their bids, which is your pick? Read the thumbnail guides and cast your vote below.

Belfast riots
Belfast: Not the only bidder riven by violence
Belfast according to Lonely Planet: "A PR firm's nightmare since the 1960s. But the new millennium sees the city defiantly shaking off its grim reputation as it reinvents and rebuilds itself."

What Lonely Planet says about Birmingham: "Until recently the city had the pulling power of a sweaty sock, mainly because it looks a bit grim and sounds even worse - the local accent is regularly voted the least attractive in Britain. But [it's] sexing itself up."

Salts Mill
Salts Mill near Bradford: A world heritage site
Bradford as thinly-disguised by its favourite son, JB Priestley: "Lost in its smoky valley among the Pennine hills, Bruddersford is generally held to be an ugly city but it always seemed to me to have the kind of ugliness that could not only be tolerated but often enjoyed."

Julie Birchill on Brighton: "The sexiest place in England. Not only is it synonymous with the Dirty Weekend as no other seaside resort, but 99% of the people you meet here came for a dirty weekend and never went home."

What the Guardian says about Bristol: "In the 60s while London swung, Bristol was stereotyped as a scrumpy-swilling backwater. No more. It's even become rather hip, largely due to the rise of Massive Attack, Roni Size and Tricky."

The Independent on Sunday's verdict on Canterbury: "Aside from being the scene of Thomas a Becket's murder and the inspiration for Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, it can count among its most famous sons the sculptor Henry Moore."

In the 60s Bristol was stereotyped as a scrumpy-swilling backwater - no more

What the Guardian says about Cardiff: "Its new self-confidence is grounded in one simple word: devolution. It has provided a focus and momentum for all kinds of distinctly Welsh noises in music and theatre, literature and visual art."

Inverness according to the Rough Guide, it "has a fine setting, astride the River Ness", and was "a place of importance for a millennium - it was probably the capital of the Pictish kingdom and the site of Macbeth's castle". It adds, however that today there's nothing remarkable to see.

The Lonely Planet's view of Liverpool: "A city of contrasts, of decrepit tenements and stunning listed buildings, gargantuan cathedrals and boarded-up shops. Liverpool will be forever synonymous with the Fab Four, two football clubs and a famously testing steeplechase."

Music Centre, Gateshead
Newcastle-Gateshead is getting a facelift
The Rough Guide's verdict on Newcastle, which is teaming up with Gateshead: "It may appear to be just another grimy industrial conurbation but the banks of the Tyne have been settled for nearly 2,000 years and the city consequently has a greater breadth of attractions than many of its northern rivals."

What the Guardian says about Norwich: "Stuck out on that East Anglian limb, Norwich's very inaccessibility has been its salvation because it is now probably the best-preserved medieval city in Britain."

Time Out on Oxford: "Oxford is as much town as gown, and its attractions do not begin and end with the colleges."

  The vote is now closed. Click here to read the results.

Some of your comments so far:

Depends on what you mean by culture - if you mean a huge diversity of ethnic groups, languages and backgrounds in a city that's thrusting vibrantly into the 21st Century, then Birmingham's the only contender. If you mean a few nice old buildings, some famous dead people and a "worthy" heritage, you may have to look elsewhere.
Simon, UK

Having moved from Cardiff a year ago, I see it now with an outsider's eye - it is a beautiful, wonderful city. When I knew I would be leaving, I was walking in the city centre and the thought struck me 'I love this city'
Jane McKinnon, Gibraltar

Keep it away from Bristol, we'll waste money that we need for far better things (housing, transport, schools...) trying to represent a culture that has so many different facets you can't begin to represent it in one place. I think Bristol's great but we don't need the cultural equivalent of the Mercury Music Prize.
Tim, UK

Belfast may have a harrowing history but it's fast becoming a great city. It certainly has more to its credit than most of the faceless cities listed above. The people of Belfast deserve recognition for turning Belfast from a bleak, uninviting place into a true cosmopolitan city with its own unique blend of cultures.
Dene Milne, Glasgow

Brighton would be bottom - not least because JB [Julie Birchill] lives there.
David Keen, UK

I've lived in 2 of the listed cities, Newcastle and Brighton, and Brighton definitely gets my vote. The sea front and surrounding areas are looking really good, an effort has been made and that should be rewarded.
Jane, UK

Newcastle is a great city. Fantastic architecture, great shops, great nightlife and great people. The surrounding countryside is wonderful and the coast is wild and beautiful.
Emma, England

I'm torn. I love the cultural diversity of Birmingham, the architecture of Liverpool, the vibrancy of Newcastle, the atmosphere of Oxford, and the history and beauty of Norwich. I have some sympathy with the person from Bristol who felt the money would be wasted. Rotterdam is a wonderful city but being European City of Culture did little to permanently improve it.
Alcuin, UK

It would be worth awarding this to Belfast if it meant that tourists really were encouraged to go there, and that the divided communities had something to work together on.
Nicci, Germany (ex UK)

Judging by the vote, it seems that no-one gives too much of a hoot, aside from voting for their own town. I think all these places probably have their own cultural merits and any would rise to the occasion. Draw the name out a hat and let the city get on with it.
Rob, UK

This has got to be a joke. Since when was the UK cultural!? It'll give the other Europeans a laugh though. These UK citizens really do live on an island. Meanwhile I'll be voting for Zurich.
John, Germany

I've never been to the UK but there's a great beer here called Newcastle Ale, and beer is kind of a culture, so I voted for Newcastle.
Joe, USA

I've never been to the UK but there's a great beer here called Newcastle Ale, and beer is kind of a culture, so I voted for Newcastle.
Joe, USA

Canterbury? Not until the city council understands that culture means more than history and a cathedral. Live music and supportive venues are virtually non-existent.
Dan, England

City of Culture is about getting aid into areas of need. Canterbury/East Kent looks affluent but when the commuters leave for London what's left is economic depravation and little indigenous industry. C of C status would mean directed funding to develop businesses and infrastructure which will last.
David Sturgess, UK

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