Firstly, let’s get one thing clear. I’m from Carlisle.
Despite my argument that it is the pinnacle of the North, a symbolic last stand of English pride before the Scottish border, realistically it’s a bit shit. I feel a duty, therefore, to raise the question as to why there has been not one single mention of the City of Carlisle in tandem with the phrase City of Culture, especially given the awards most recent winners.
So far the list of winners for the UK city of Culture has included, Derry/Londonderry (2013) and Kingston Upon Hull (2017) – with Coventry set to claim the award in 2021. Now, I’m not saying that these cities don’t have anything noteworthy to contribute to the world of Culture, but I’ve never once heard anyone purposefully making a trip to Hull on the basis that it’s brimming with cultural significance. I’ll give you that Derry/Londonderry does look stellar as it lights up against the backdrop of a Northern Irish night sky. But, as for Hull and Coventry, I’ll not be booking my train tickets anytime soon. With other shortlisted cities including Paisley, Stoke and Sunderland you can’t help but wonder if the title “City of Culture” should instead be listed as “this drab place of existence needs some economic support from tourism award”. It certainly appears to have a similar vibe to an “X Factor sob story” except that in this situation the contestants were instead replaced with grey tower blocks and bleak city skylines.
In winning, Coventry is set to receive a three million pound investment from The Heritage Lottery Fund. However, The Guardian reported that Hull has received over fifteen million pounds in government funding plus an additional three million pounds from Arts Council England when winning the award last year. With millions of pounds worth of investment being injected into the cities that win, surely you would have thought that you could find somewhere ever so slightly more inspiring than the current title holders. I guess we shall have to wait and see what 2025 holds in the future.