Birmingham City Council has confirmed it will put forward a bid for the city to be Britain’s first City of Culture - and the city’s blogs and forums have played host to lively debate on the form any bid should take.
Last week Culture Secretary Ben Bradsaw said he hoped Birmingham or its “city region” including neighbouring towns and cities would bid for the title of Britain’s first City of Culture.
The winning city would host major events such as the Brits and the Turner Prize and enjoy free publicity worth up to £200 million.
But given the city’s recent history - losing out to Liverpool to host the European Capital of Culture event last year - the subject has sparked online debate over how Birmingham should approach any bid.
Birmingham-based musician Rich Batsford was the first to comment on the story at the Birmingham Post website, writing he had mixed feelings about it. He said: “I want to be clear that what we need to do is support and nurture what we already have in a sensible and organised way - not throw money at it blindly or spend millions on advertising campaigns that don’t advertise anything in particular except some new brand or other nonsense jargon.”
He put forward a list of cultural organisations which he believed should be involved, including a the city’s independent festivals Fierce, Supersonic and Flatpack Festival, as well as organisations like the CBSO and Birmingham Opera Company.
The list was extended by athadleypaul who put forward groups such as community radio staion Rhubarb Radio and the photography initiative the 4AM project among others.
Helga Henry, general manager of Fierce Earth, the organisation which runs Fierce Festival, said she would throw her weight behind any potential bid. She said: “I absolutely think Birmingham should go for a bid.
“I know there was a lot of controversy about the bid for 2008 which I had some minimal involvement in but there was some innovative and exciting and wonderful things inside that bid.
“Since that happened I think our cultural offer has just got stronger. Events like Flatpack have been recognised by the Film Council as one of the seven festivals of national significance, Rhubarb Radio goes from strength to strength and Capsule are ten years old and it’s their seventh Supersonic.
“That’s in the independent sector but of course our big institutions are doing really well as well.
“But this bid will only be meaningful if the city council does it in a way in which they can continue their current investment and have an aspiration to grow that level of investment not just in niche festivals but in all organisations large and smalll.
“It would be counterproductive or stupid to bid for this title and cut arts funding at the same time. If it means that this is a way to protect and even enhance it I’m all for it.”
Meanwhile, prompted by Rich Batsford and Coun Martin Mullaney’s list on The Stirrer of Birmingham icons such as the Duran Duran and JRR Tolkein, Jon Bounds wrote about the need for more ambition on his site Birmingham It's Not Shit.
He said: “Any large festival should be looking for new and innovative things — even if they must reflect our past.”
He put forward his own list of suggestions including “Crossroads the Opera” performed by the Birmingham Opera Company, a Birmingham
Comedy Festival and an arts cinema opening in the Central Library building, which he said was a “badly needed legacy.”
Jonathan Walker, the Birmingham Post’s political editor, wrote on his blog: “My personal view is that the city should follow the same type of approach as Red Nose Day, when people are encouraged to come up with their own ideas to raise money for charity.”
In response, Jon Bounds reignited the debate over the idea of a “creative director” for the city of Birmingham, along the lines of Peter Saville in Manchester.
He raised the need for “strong artistic leadership from a respected figure. A Creative Director if you will.”
* See the debate for yourself on the city’s blogs http://delicious.com/annablackaby/cityofculture