A WHOLE host of well-known names have 'backed the bid' for County Durham to become the City of Culture 2025 - ahead of the judging panel visiting the historic city of Durham later today (May 9).

County Durham was last month shortlisted in the final four alongside Southampton, Wrexham and Bradford to add their name to the prestigious accolade of holding the City of Culture name - and harnessing a range of cultural activies in 2025.

Today, a judging panel, made up of experts from a range of disciplines, will visit Durham to see all it has to offer in history, architecture, cultural attractions and the diverse range of shops and restaurants it has.

Read more: County Durham is now one step closer to being named UK City of Culture 2025

Ahead of that visit, well-known names that have lived in County Durham their whole lives or the region holds a special place in their hearts have 'backed the bid' for the county to become the City of Culture in 2025.

Here's what they had to say about the locations that they hold so dear:  


"I was born and raised in nearby Tyneside, but in many ways Durham has been the historic heart of the North East - as a spiritual centre in the Middle Ages with the stunning cathedral, a centre of learning with one of the oldest universities in Britain, not to mention its importance to the industrial revolution, with the mining community still celebrated every year at the Miners’ Gala.

"There is a lot of talk from the government about levelling up, but more often than not the region has been overlooked for decade after decade. So for Durham to be selected would provide a much-needed spotlight on this unique and important culture of the North East."  

Darlington and Stockton Times: Musician Sting has backed the County Durham City of Culture bid. Picture: NORTHERN ECHO.Musician Sting has backed the County Durham City of Culture bid. Picture: NORTHERN ECHO.

Bill Bryson (Author)

I don’t know of any place that offers a greater depth of history, architectural magnificence and cultural vibrancy in a lovelier setting than County Durham – from its breath-taking coastline and the rolling hills of the Dales to the unforgettable city boasting a World Heritage Site.

"And it has the friendliest people in the country. What more could you ask for?"

Darlington and Stockton Times: Author Bill Bryson. Picture: NORTHERN ECHO.Author Bill Bryson. Picture: NORTHERN ECHO.

Jeremy Vine (Presenter, broadcaster and journalist)

"When I was a teenage, spotty, somewhat apathetic student, oh you really could not get me interested in anything apart from the obvious, and I arrived in Durham without a clue and I remember on day one rounding that little cobbled street and seeing, picked out by the spotlights because it was after sunset, the cathedral and realising that a thousand years ago, nearly, people had given their lives to this building and here it was nearly a millennium later and I was shuffling along looking up at it and that is why Durham needs to be the City of Culture, to be honest it is no contest is it? Show me any other city with a building like that."

Darlington and Stockton Times: Jeremy Vine. Picture: NORTHERN ECHO.Jeremy Vine. Picture: NORTHERN ECHO.

Jake Jarratt (County Durham-based actor and theatre maker)

“What really appeals to me is that this is a bid for the whole of County Durham.

“Durham City is amazing but that is just one part of the county and there is a lot more going on here that we need to tell people about. This is a chance to showcase the talent and potential that exists in communities across the county and to build on what is already going on to create even more opportunities.

“Not everybody likes acting, just as not everyone likes painting or going to the theatre. If we can grow County Durham’s reputation as a cultural destination, we can encourage more arts organisations to come here and offer new and exciting things.”

Darlington and Stockton Times: Actor Jake Jarratt. Picture: NORTHERN ECHO.Actor Jake Jarratt. Picture: NORTHERN ECHO.

Tess Tickle (County Durham drag performer)

“When many people think of County Durham, they think of our gorgeous city. When I think of County Durham, I think of all the small towns and villages that make County Durham AMAZING!!!! 

“County Durham has come so far over the years especially with regards to equality and diversity. As a drag queen growing up in a mining village within the county, I have had nothing but love and support from a community that I would say isn’t always given the recognition it deserves. 

“This bid gives us the chance to share with the world the amazing creations that are made right here in County Durham. If we can showcase what we do here it’s only going to grow our county, not only encouraging more and more people to visit the area but driving equality and diversity forward. 

“To see my hometown of Ferryhill on the map as part of the UK City of Culture would mean the world as it’s truly deserved. We need to be recognised.” 

Darlington and Stockton Times: Drag performer Tess Tickle. Picture: DURHAM COUNTY COUNCIL.Drag performer Tess Tickle. Picture: DURHAM COUNTY COUNCIL.

Lee Ridley, Lost Voice Guy (Stand up comedian and Britain’s Got Talent Winner 2018)

“I’m very proud to be from County Durham and that’s why I’m backing its UK City of Culture bid 100 per cent.

"Growing up with the likes of Beamish Museum, the Gala Theatre, and Durham Cathedral on my doorstep was definitely a big benefit to me and helped me get into culture at an early age.

"So, it would be great for the next generation of young people to be able to experience something similar. Winning the UK City of Culture bid would certainly help do that, so I wish County Durham every success.” 

Darlington and Stockton Times: Lee Ridley, aka Lost Voice Guy. Picture: DURHAM COUNTY COUNCIL.Lee Ridley, aka Lost Voice Guy. Picture: DURHAM COUNTY COUNCIL.

Richard Turner aka Mr Wishy Washy (music curator and promoter and events manager at The Old Cinema Launderette in Gilesgate, Durham)

"The cultural scene in County Durham is amazing and there is so much potential for us to make it even better. We have world-class events such as Lumiere and Brass, vibrant theatres, a new fringe festival, fantastic music venues and so much more.

"I am backing County Durham’s bid to be UK City of Culture as I believe it would create opportunities for us to showcase what is on offer here.

"It would also provide a great boost to cultural venues, which not only contribute to the economy but are a place where people can get together and unwind. By day, The Old Cinema Launderette is a traditional launderette and coffee shop but by night we transform into a unique gig venue.

"The atmosphere is brilliant and, for me, enjoying live music with friends is what culture is all about. 

Darlington and Stockton Times: Richard Turner, aka Mr Wishy Washy. Picture: DURHAM COUNTY COUNCIL.Richard Turner, aka Mr Wishy Washy. Picture: DURHAM COUNTY COUNCIL.

Dr Stephen Cronin (Director of Durham Fringe Festival)

"Despite the COVID pandemic, from a standing start in April 2021, by the end of July we had delivered the first Durham Fringe Festival selling 2,075 tickets for 30 very different shows over five days in four amazing city centre venues.

"County Durham is a highly creative county with an established appetite for live performance of all types. There's an amazing history of creativity which continues to be a key part of our lives and we thoroughly deserve to be the UK City of Culture 2025.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Dr Stephen Cronin. Picture: DURHAM COUNTY COUNCIL.Dr Stephen Cronin. Picture: DURHAM COUNTY COUNCIL.

Lizzie Glazier (Programme Manager at the Gala Theatre in Durham)

"Everyone has the right to participate in the cultural life of the community. We work across County Durham from our base in the city.

"Touring our free family show to communities this summer allowed audiences to enjoy live performance on their doorsteps. Winning UK City of Culture 2025 would provide more opportunities for everyone to engage with culture – creating, participating and enjoying new experiences alongside the wonderful cultural activities already taking place in County Durham. 

Fiona Hill (Adviser to three US Presidents and author of “There Is Nothing for You Here”)

"All of the things that made my journey from the coal house to the White House possible began in County Durham. Even in the darkest of times, County Durham has continued to invest in culture, arts and education. 

"Durham deserves to win the title of UK City of Culture in 2025, and the investment that follows. It would help to give a boost to a really unique place, with uniquely resilient people who are innovative and talented but who have not been able to keep themselves in the spotlight.

"This is the time for the region to shine again and for the people of County Durham to believe that there is something for you here.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Fiona Hill. Picture: PA MEDIA.Fiona Hill. Picture: PA MEDIA.

Steve Cram

"Sport is embedded in the culture of our region and it’s brilliant that it will be playing such a big role in the county’s UK City of Culture 2025 bid."

Darlington and Stockton Times: Steve Cram. Picture: NORTHERN ECHO.Steve Cram. Picture: NORTHERN ECHO.

David Olusoga (Historian and broadcaster)

I am part of that generation who, during the North-East's darkest hour, had no choice but to get on our bikes and head south.

"Yet like most ex-pat Geordies I remain proud to have been brought up in the region, where my family still live.

"Whenever I get the chance I make programmes about the region and use my voice as a journalist and presenter to shine a light on the region of its people. It is a place I will always was call home and always think of as ‘home'.

Darlington and Stockton Times: David Olusoga. Picture: NORTHERN ECHO.David Olusoga. Picture: NORTHERN ECHO.

Chris Bavin (Celebrity chef and TV presenter)

"I’m backing Durham’s bid for 2025 City of Culture because do you know what I think this place has a really unique atmosphere the people are the friendliest in the whole country.

"It’s got everything, it’s got beautiful views, it’s got amazing food, it’s got so much going on I think it should definitely win."

Darlington and Stockton Times: Chris Bavin. Picture: NORTHERN ECHO.Chris Bavin. Picture: NORTHERN ECHO.

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