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Thursday, 25 October, 2001, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
Belfast's culture bid under way
Belfast has launched its bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2008.

It was officially launched in Belfast on Thursday by Northern Ireland Culture Minister Michael McGimpsey.

The bid is being spearheaded by a company called Imagine Belfast 2008.

Its chairman Tom Collins said Europe was looking to Northern Ireland as an example of how a society could be transformed and that strengthened Belfast's case.

'Enormously vibrant'

While he conceded the city had a serious image problem, he insisted Belfast was already a city of culture.

We feel there is a pulse in Belfast that will speak to the UK, Europe and the rest of the world

Tom Collins, Imagine Belfast

"We see Belfast as being a city which is enormously vibrant," he said.

"If you look at our history over the past 100 years of culture, debate and its self-confidence - it was once the centre of the world in terms of its industrial past.

"We want to regain that now. We feel that there is a pulse in Belfast that will speak not only to the United Kingdom but for the United Kingdom and speak to Europe and to the rest of the world."

One city from the UK will be chosen to hold the sought-after European title, which can help boost local business, tourism and the arts.

Several cities are vying for the privilege including Newcastle, Norwich, Cardiff, Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool.

The title is conferred annually by the European Commission.

Cardiff Civic Centre
Cardiff has begun its campaign

Member states take it in turn to nominate a cultural capital, and it falls to the UK in 2008 - the first time since Glasgow was named European City of Culture in 1990.

Bids have to be in to the government by March 2002, with the winner chosen the following year.

Organisers say the bid could have immense investment implications for Belfast.

They say that in the 10 years since Glasgow won the title, it has led to a resurgence in the city's economic fortunes and recognition as a destination for business and leisure tourism.


Previous holders of the title have included Dublin, Glasgow, Salonika in Greece and Stockholm in Sweden.

Last month, Cardiff began a six-month campaign leading to its official bid for the status.

The city's chamber of commerce said if its bid was successful, it could result in the creation of thousands of jobs.

Cardiff Chamber of Commerce said the city stood to substantially benefit economically and socially.

BBC NI's Wendy Austin
speaks to Imagine Belfast's Tom Collins and Andrew Kelly of the Bristol campaign
See also:

31 Oct 00 | UK
Joining the culture club
17 Jan 98 | Europe
City of culture but no snow
26 Apr 00 | Wales
Hopes of European culture title
08 May 01 | Wales
City's culture bid under attack
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