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European Capital of Culture

European Capital of Culture

We’ve recently agreed to work with Derry City and Strabane District Council to develop a joint bid to become the UK’s nominated host city for the European Capital of Culture in 2023.

If we’re successful in our bid, we’ll host a year-long programme of events that will showcase both cities and the region resulting in huge benefits.

Help us make this everyone’s bid and give us your views. Your responses will help shape the vision and themes of our bid.

What is the European Capital of Culture?

The European Capital of Culture (ECoC) is an annual designation awarded by European Commission to nations inside and outside of the EU.

Since it launched in 1985, 56 cities have hosted the title including two in the UK – Glasgow in 1990 and Liverpool in 2008. Dublin held the title in 1991, Cork in 2005 and Galway will be Capital of Culture in 2020.

In their title year, a designated city organises a programme of cultural events with a strong European dimension. The aim is to celebrate and showcase our cultural excellence, broaden access to culture and act as a catalyst for economic and social development. The result should be long-term transformation for the region. 

In 2023 the two countries hosting the title will be UK and Hungary. We are partnering with Derry and Strabane District Council to enter a joint bid between our two cities. 

What’s the benefit?

Being a European Capital of Culture celebrates not only the arts and cultural events but it has the power to build on a range of positives in our cities and help address those issues we’d like to make better. 

It could benefit the people living in the two cities by:
  • creating positive changes in attitudes and perceptions
  • enhancing civic engagement
  • improving social inclusion
  • promoting the diversity of cultures in Europe.

It would help to grow our economy by:

  • generating a direct economic return
  • boosting tourism
  • raising our international profile.
Our city development would also benefit from:
  • culture-led regeneration
  • increased connectivity
  • strong collaborative working for regional development for the two cities.
There would be working and learning profits including:
  • supporting growth 
  • connecting people to opportunities
  • connecting with European partners through exchanges, shared learning and development of similar projects.

Why Belfast and Derry?

There have been a number of applications from regions in the past, however, we feel that this presents an excellent opportunity to extend the collaborative working for two cities. The organisers recognise that people are not contained by boundaries drawn on a map. A person’s sense of belonging and the benefits of being a European Capital of Culture can extend beyond narrow city limits.

By bidding together, we hope to cement the roles of both our cities as regional economic and social drivers. It will also create an opportunity to support people to connect with each other and to celebrate our cities across Europe and the world.

What other cities are in the mix?

Other cities from across the UK are eligible to compete for the 2023 designation. A number of cities have declared their intention to bid including Leeds, Milton Keynes and Dundee.  

What’s the council role?

Belfast City Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council will lead the application process. Together, we’ve are working through a process that will gather the information for the bid document through engaging with our communities and this will assist in developing to cultural programme. Both councils will work together and seek input from the local community and all of our partners.

What happens next?

The closing date for submitting our first bid document is 27 October 2017. We’ll know by the end of the year if we are through to the next stage. 

If we’re successful, we’ll submit a revised bid submission and carry out further public engagement. The final bids will be required by summer 2018 and the winner will be announced later in 2018. 

Whether we’re successful or not, we still need to commit to the joint cultural strategy set out in the bid document. If we win, preparations will start for a year-long programme of cultural events in the year 2023.

Why we want to hear from you?

We want to give the people who live in our council areas the chance to get involved and shape our joint bid document. We need to know what matters to you so that we can build meaningful themes for our submission. 

We’ll be carrying out engagement activities this summer to seek your views on key aspects of the bid including the main themes and programme of activities.

More information

For more information or to find out more about our engagement programme, please contact the Belfast bid team by phone on 028 9050 0543 or by email at ecoc2023@belfastcity.gov.uk


Contact us
Belfast bid team
028 9050 0543