Prime Minister Tony Blair is deliberating on which of 13 towns will be European City of Culture 2008. The choice is Belfast, Birmingham/ West Midlands, Bradford, Brighton/ Hove, Bristol, Canterbury/ East Kent, Cardiff, Inverness/ Highlands, Liverpool, Milton Keynes, Newcastle/ Gateshead, Norwich and Oxford. Which would you choose and why?
‘Belfast. The city is undergoing an amazing social and economic transition. Its creative industries sector is blossoming. It is the only place in the UK with a policy on creativity that straddles education, business and culture. The city’s physical location and architecture shouldn’t be missed. Its edginess differentiates it from the blandness of the competition. And there’s the crown, the best pub in Europe.’
Stuart McDonald, Director, The Lighthouse, Glasgow
‘That’s a tough choice. While I might be partial to the tradition and erudition of Oxford, having spent three years there as an undergraduate, I’m swayed by Bradford’s heritage, museums and festivals, Newcastle’s vibrancy, Cardiff’s very distinctive appeal and I think Belfast would make a great choice on many different levels with regards to its history, culture and unique position. Alas, none of these compare – in terms of gestation time as well as internal logic – to that specific manifestation of culture that is Milton Keynes. It wouldn’t even need any additional museums or events.’
Olaf Wendt, independent digital designer
‘That’s a big question. I don’t think I could pick one just like that. I would have to narrow down the list as much as possible. Thirteen is way too many. Given that the key words are “European” and “culture”, I would leave only those cities on the list that had recently or still have a cultural influence on Europe. I don’t think Milton Keynes would be on that list. My personal shortlist: Liverpool and Oxford. Oxford doesn’t really need more attention than it already has, so my final choice would be Liverpool. Ob-la-di, ob-la-da.
Justus Oehler, Partner, Pentagram
‘As a foreigner I don’t have that north/ south divide prejudice that is still prevalent in the UK. So I would choose Liverpool because it has well-established international links, a deep cultural history and a strong local identity, (plus it has a great football team). It also has a romanticism that you won’t find in Milton Keynes. But the political choice would be Belfast.’
Pierre Vermeir, Creative director, HGV