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Birmingham must learn the lessons of its failed bid to become European Capital of Culture now that’s made the shortlist for the equivalent UK title – so says the Cabinet member leading the bid, Martin Mullaney.

The competition has now been whittled down to just four, leaving Brum to compete with Derry, Sheffield and Norwich.

Cllr Mullaney has made public support for the bid and the arts generally one of the key planks of his strategy to win the first UK City of Culture title in 2013.

He argues that when Brum lost out to Liverpool for the European crown in 2008, it was because the northern city had generated more grass roots backing.

“Birmingham has one of the lowest participation rates of any major city in the arts and we need to change that” Mullaney said.

“There was the sense that for 2008 that the people of Liverpool really wanted to win, and we need to create the same buzz around this.”

He said that efforts would be made to target less affluent neighbourhoods such as Perry Barr, Ladywood and Hodge Hill – and also to bring major organisations in the city like the CBSO, BRB and Elmhurst School more accessible to people in the inner city.

Regardless of whether the bid is ultimately successful, the Council has already pledged to create a nine week Autumn Festival in 2013 creating new works, and curated by a major arts figure of the calibre of Jarvis Cocker – who did a similar job with the South Bank’s Meltdown.

There will be a celebration of the region’s Heavy Metal heritage, and a major blockbuster art exhibition. Names as diverse as Van Gogh and Banksy are already being touted as possibilities.

“People say the arts are the icing on the cake, but there’s more to it than that. Something like this can also give us an economic boost” said Mullaney.

“If we are win the City of Culture, we could get to host the MTV Awards and the BAFTA’s. That will bring people to the city, and we can use that to try and persuade them to invest here.

“And it will also help us to generate sponsorship for what we already have – events like the St Patricks Day parade which can become even bigger”.



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