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Thursday, 21 March, 2002, 15:14 GMT
Cities reveal culture contest bids
Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury's bid will highlight its religious history
Two English cities have unveiled the reasons why they believe they should be nominated European Capital of Culture in 2008.

Organisers of Birmingham's bid, which has been formally lodged at Downing Street, believe the city's position at the heart of England will led to success for their bid.

Meanwhile Canterbury has unveiled details of its bid, with the importance of pilgrimages and journeys the central theme behind a bid to bring the prestigious title to Kent.

The two cities are competing with English rivals including Newcastle and Gateshead, Bradford, Liverpool, and Bristol.


Birmingham has become a hothouse where all the different cultures fire off each other dynamically and creatively

Stephen Hetherington, Birmingham bid director

A UK city, to be nominated by the Prime Minister, will be awarded the Capital of Culture title in 2008.

If the Birmingham bid is successful a new venue called The Shrine will be built as a place of contemplation and music for all faiths.

The bid organisers also want to recapture the impact the Eiffel Tower had on the Paris World Fair of 1889 by building The Needle, an 18 million landmark, planned for the Eastside area of Birmingham.

Birmingham bid director Stephen Hetherington said: "The city's diversity is its strength.

"More than a fusion of cultures, it has become a hothouse where all the different cultures fire off each other dynamically and creatively.


The broad ranging programme will be a celebration of a rich cultural inheritance, an exciting future and it will reflect its place at the gateway to Europe

Timothy Mason, Canterbury bidding team

"Add to this the fact that Birmingham has been investing in its culture for decades with a city that delivers major projects and we have an unbeatable case."

The Canterbury bid, called Odyssey, will reflect "physical, intellectual and spiritual voyages".

Major events over the next six years include the opening of the Turner Centre in 2005 in Margate, which will provide a venue for national and international arts events.

By 2008 there will be a new gallery at the Royal Museum and Gallery in Canterbury.

Canterbury's rich literary, religious and artistic heritage is also being stressed.

It is the seat of the Church of England and the first settlement of Christian missionaries from Rome, lead by St Augustine.

Bidders for the title
Bristol, possibly teamed with Bath
Canterbury
Liverpool
Birmingham
Newcastle and Gateshead
Bradford
Milton Keynes
Brighton and Hove
Oxford
Norwich

Cultural consultant Timothy Mason, a member of the Canterbury bidding team, said: "Canterbury, a city for all ages, is on the move.

"The broad ranging programme will be a celebration of a rich cultural inheritance, an exciting future and it will reflect its place at the gateway to Europe."

The bidders are drawing on Kent's association with writers and artists of the past.

The county is the birthplace of Christopher Marlowe, the inspiration of JMW Turner and Charles Dickens and, of course, Geoffrey Chaucer.

The head of Leisure and Culture at Canterbury City Council, Janice Campbell said: "There is no doubt that Canterbury and East Kent has a great past but we are on our way to an even greater future".

See also:

30 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
Belfast 'favourite' for culture title
27 Nov 01 | England
Cabbies sell city's culture bid
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