I watched BBC Breakfast as the winning city in the European Capital of Culture bid was announced by Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell. I assumed Newcastle and Gateshead would win it; an assumption based on public opinion polls coupled with a definite sense that the North East deserved a break. Unfortunately for those in the North East, it is not the selection panels job to pander to public opinion and while Newcastle and Gateshead may have been the favourites to win, this does not account for the preference of the handful of people making the final decision.
So what were they looking for in the competing cities? What were they measuring when they were deciding between them? The problem in answering these questions is that ‘culture’ is a big word with many usages. One such usage would be something like “Let’s experience some culture, let’s go to an art gallery”, implying that culture is to be experienced in a specific place. Newcastle and Gateshead has these cultural centres; BALTIC and The Sage being perhaps the most significant developments. But maybe this was the problem with the Newcastle Gateshead bid; a reliance on these specific developments rather than taking a more holistic view of the culture of the city. It’s a real shame for the people of Newcastle and Gateshead as I think everyones hopes were up. Congratulations to Liverpool then, it will be exciting to see how the city develops over the next 5 years.