Could Chester be a future UK City of Culture?

Chester, situated in North West England, is one of the most attractive and historically versatile cities in the UK – it has become a thriving tourist destination, for this very reason. The city certainly has huge cultural potential, and perhaps it was a wish to make more of this on the world stage that led the council to apply for the title of UK City of Culture 2017. Unfortunately, Chester wasn’t shortlisted on this occasion. However, the city has now got the bit between its teeth, and there are a number of steps which could be taken to ensure success next time round.

More consistent and unified presentation of the arts

Chester has an undeniably rich arts scene – the city is ‘festival rich’. Under the umbrella of the arts production company Chester Performs, a number of regular events take place. For instance, this year’s Essar Chester Literary Festival hosted writers and public figures such as Kate Mosse, Derek Jacobi, Kate Adie and Clive James. Moreover, Chester Performs will also be producing the 2014 MBNA Chester Music Festival.

With other festivals, such as the Food and Drink Festival and Chester Rocks adorning the calendar, Chester indeed appears to be in prime position to serve as a UK City of Culture. However, perhaps next time, a more consolidated, unified presentation of the arts, with emphasis on raw talent, might serve the application better. It has been suggested that submitting an application whilst a new theatre was still under construction was perhaps not the best idea in terms of timing. With plans going ahead to transform the former Odeon Cinema in to a theatre, cinema and library complex, the completed building could spearhead a more concentrated, benefits-focused second submission.

Emphasising the architecture

Chester is only one of eight Heritage cities in the UK, which only serves to underline its historical significance. The city is not, however, preserved in aspic. Indeed, one of its most striking aspects is the extent to which its varied architecture is a living, breathing part of a flourishing urban centre, with a population of around 321,000. Attractions such as the Roman Walls, and the Tudor shopping arcades known as ‘the Rows’, provide endless visual contrast to visitors and residents alike. These sites should be promoted, along with more modern structures such as the impressive new Student Union building, as part of an integral Chester experience.

The sporting life

Finally, as if its rich cultural heritage was not enough, Chester has plenty of sporting events. Many of these focus on the iconic Chester Racecourse, which is the oldest of its kind in the UK. The Racecourse is moreover another lively cultural centre, with plenty to offer in terms of events, such as the forthcoming Winter Wonderland display. Football fans will also be aware that the city is home Chester FC, and is buzzing with interest in the local team.

All in all, the combination of cultural richness and variety, as well as the quality of the Chester experience, can only benefit any future applications to become a UK City of Culture.

Posted by Adam Lloyd
November 10, 2013

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