Looking ahead after losing out on bid
WELLS may not have made it on to the shortlist of cities from which the City of Culture 2021 will be chosen – but there are still ambitious plans to enhance the area’s cultural activity.
Coventry, Paisley, Stoke, Sunderland and Swansea made it through to the final round of judging from 11 cities that put themselves forward.
The Wells bid team will now get detailed feedback on their bid from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in early August. This will be followed by a meeting with Culture Minister Karen Bradley in the autumn to discuss how the ideas in the bid can be advanced.
Andrew Webb, lead for the Wells team, said: “Our bid process was never just seen as an end in itself, but a valuable way of bringing local people and organisations together to discuss what we want our towns to look like in the future. We are excited about what those next steps will be.
“The work and contributions to the bid process from countless people and organisations has been greatly appreciated – and ideas and feedback are still welcome from all members of the community as we work to implement ideas to make our community more exciting, stronger and more inclusive.”
It has been suggested that Wells might host a “Not the City of Culture” Festival in 2021, while other projects that have already been implemented or are under discussion include:
• A new Wells Cultural Forum with the aim of sharing ideas and improving coordination between arts groups, schools and the city’s festivals.
• A new Theatre Festival to be launched in 2018.
• An event involving the illumination of the exterior of prominent buildings to tell the stories of the city.
• A permanent gallery at Wells & Mendip Museum which will tell the history of the city.
• The opening up parts of The Bishop’s Palace previously inaccessible to the public, including high level walkways, giving panoramic views of the city.
Wells City Council congratulated the bid team on their commitment and enthusiasm, but has sounded a note of caution about future developments.
In a statement responding to the shortlist announcement, it said: “The city council would recommend that the relevant planning authorities’ Conservation Officers be asked to carry out an impact assessment on the emerging project. If it is to go forward on a large scale it would be important to ensure that safeguards were in place, protecting our tiny medieval city centre from potential damage due to the proposed imposition of massive footfall, transport and other infrastructure, both temporary and permanent. There are also historic sites and rural features in the hinterland to be considered.”
There will be ongoing talks between the bid team, local authorities, Visit Somerset and the Wells City and Tourism Forum about the proposals.