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Cities of Culture FAQs

Cities of Culture FAQs

Here you can find answers to frequently asked questions about UK Cities and Capitals of Culture.

Explore our resources to learn about how the evaluations of these programmes can inform your own practice:

What is a UK City of Culture?

The UK City of Culture competition is a UK-wide programme run by the government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). It is designed to recognise and celebrate the culture of cities and contribute to regeneration and cultural participation through a year-long cultural programme.

The title of UK City of Culture is awarded every four years. The first UK City of Culture was Derry-Londonderry in 2013, followed by Hull in 2017 and Coventry in 2021.

What is the current UK City of Culture?

The current UK City of Culture is Bradford, which will be hosting a year-long programme of activity in 2025.

What is a European Capital of Culture?

The European Capitals of Culture programme is supported by the European Union (EU). It was established to celebrate European cultures and its diversity, as well as the role of culture in the designated cities.

The first European Capital of Culture was Athens in 1985, and so far it has been awarded to more than 60 cities. Different cities are awarded the title each year and more than one city can be a European Capital of Culture in any given year.

The European Capitals of Culture for 2024 are Bad Ischl in Austria, Bodø in Norway and Tartu in Estonia. In 2025 they will be Chemnitz in Germany and Nova Gorica in Slovenia.

Which UK cities have been Capitals of Culture?

UK cities which have held the title of European Capital of Culture are Glasgow, in 1990, and Liverpool, in 2008.

Leeds bid to be a host city for the European Capital of Culture in 2023, but the UK’s departure from the EU meant that UK cities were no longer eligible for the title. Instead, Leeds partners held a Year of Culture in 2023.

Do Cities of Culture always take place in cities?

Yes. However, similar types of annual place-based programmes or mega-events also take place regionally. For example, London Boroughs of Culture or Greater Manchester Town of Culture.

Do Cities of Culture take place in other continents?

There are a number of programmes worldwide that aim to recognise and celebrate the culture of cities, including similar competitions in South America and East Asia.

How are Cities and Capitals of Culture awarded?

Any UK city except for London was eligible to apply for the title of UK City of Culture 2025. Applications were assessed by an expert advisory panel, which assesses bids, provides feedback and gives advice to the DCMS Secretary of State, who makes the decision.

For European Capitals of Culture, selected host countries – or Member States – within the EU are responsible for managing and initially assessing applications from cities who would like to participate. The process also includes a panel of independent experts, which assesses the final shortlist and recommends one city per host country.

Cities in EU countries which are EU candidates, potential EU candidates or members of the European Free Trade Association can bid for the title every other year.

What sorts of activities do UK Cities of Culture include?

The application guidance for UK Cities of Culture is very broad and puts the onus on the city itself to decide on their own definition of culture. It can include theatre, music and live performance, heritage, museums and galleries, film, photography and animation, publishing and media. Activities take place throughout the year and usually aim to be accessible for residents in all areas of the city.

What difference do Cities of Culture make?

Our resources provide an overview of some of the key learnings from the most recent five UK Cities and Capitals of Culture. They focus on the process of evaluation, such as who is involved, what methods are used and what they tell us about specific areas. They will be useful for anyone who is delivering or evaluating large-scale events, place-based activity or programmes which aim to assess the impact of cultural activities over a long period of time.

Take a look at How are UK Cities and Capitals of Culture evaluated? for more information.

Information correct at date of publishing – April 2024.

Young people playing in an orchestra, close up on the string section with focus on two young people playing violins.
Derry-Londonderry City of Culture 2013 (Photo: Derry City and Strabane District Council)

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