30/10/2002

Belfast fails to make City of Culture shortlist

Belfast has failed to make the shortlist of UK cities for the European Capital of Culture 2008 bid.

Imagine Belfast 2008, which was set up by Belfast City Council to manage the city's bid, expressed its "disappointment" at the news.

The organisation's Chief Executive, Hilary McGrady, said: “This is obviously very disappointing news for everyone who has been involved in creating, developing, and supporting Belfast’s bid.

"Imagine Belfast 2008 has always been about initiating a cultural process to engage the imagination of Belfast’s people. We did just that and succeeded in creating a bid that was in the words of Prime Minister Tony Blair: ‘An imaginative, innovative and ambitious entry’.

“There are no losers in this process. We mustn’t lose sight of the benefits that bidding for European Capital of Culture status has brought Belfast. All of the activity surrounding the bid has been a catalyst for encouraging more positive perceptions of the city – at home and internationally."

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Alex Maskey, praised the hard work that had gone into putting the bid together.

"We must recognise that a lot of hard work and energy has been invested in this bid – not to mention the imagination, commitment and partnership that has been involved right across the City," he said.

"Strong partnerships have been formed, which can still be used to drive forward initiatives that can make this City a better place in which to live, work and to visit. We know that we can still place this City on the world stage for all the right reasons."

Expressing the disappointment felt within the Northern Ireland business community, the Federation of Small Businesses NI Policy Chair, Wilfred Mitchell, said: “This is a tremendous disappointment for the business community as the title would have been a great boost for Tourist Industry in the Belfast and through out Northern Ireland.

“However the team at Imagine Belfast 2008, Belfast City Council and DCAL deserve congratulations for their commitment and enthusiasm they brought to this project."

The city council established Imagine Belfast 2008 to manage Belfast’s bid on behalf of all of the citizens of Belfast in March 2001.

In conjunction with elected members and chief officers of Belfast City Council, representatives of the main city agencies, cultural organisations and practitioners, the council said that the organisation had "delivered a sound, robust, locally and internationally stimulating bid".

The six cities that made it on to the shortlist – Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool, Newcastle Gateshead and Oxford – where confirmed this morning by Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell.

The cities on the shortlist were also named as UK centres of 'Cultural Excellence'.

(MB)

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