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Judy Terry is a marketing professional and a former local councillor in Suffolk.

Banksy’s ‘spraycation’ in ten locations along the East Coast in Suffolk and Norfolk has boosted interest in the many delights of the area, from excellent hospitality, to the hidden charm of its seaside towns. Local residents – and politicians – hope it will also help to illustrate why the region deserves to win City of Culture status.

For the first time, groups of towns and neighbouring areas are eligible to bid for being a City of Culture – and East Suffolk Council, with Great Yarmouth Borough, have grasped the opportunity to claim the title for 2025.

Cllr.Steve Gallant, Leader of East Suffolk Council says:

“This is a truly unique area with a magnificent 70 mile coastline, a strong history and vibrant communities, from Gt. Yarmouth and Gorleston to Felixstowe. It’s no secret that many coastal areas have suffered in recent decades, but our local authorities have worked hard to revive them, attracting investment and new businesses, creating jobs and improving facilities.”

That proactive determination resulted in key projects being realised. In Lowestoft, an important base for the off-shore wind industry, work has started on the new iconic £126m Gullwing Bridge, a third crossing to benefit access and the environment, whilst the once-famous Winter Gardens in Gt. Yarmouth won £10m lottery funding, with a further £5m from the Borough, allowing its full restoration to begin.

Already Europe’s biggest container port, Felixstowe expects to be awarded Freeport status, further benefiting the local (and national) economy, capitalising on the significant public and private investment which restored the Seafront Gardens, Martello Tower play areas, the Pier, and launched the new street market. A creative programme to repurpose containers for retail and café use has also proved a big visitor attraction.

Drawing on the success of partnership working, the City of Culture bid focuses on areas beyond those already popular with second homeowners and tourists, to showcase the broader cultural offer, which is “significant both in terms of the numbers of people it directly and indirectly employs, and its growing diversity, attracting national and international visitors,” explains Cllr. Gallant.

Renowned for its musical, theatrical and artistic events, the region is also a national environmental asset, with extensive wildlife protection, including RSPB Minsmere bird sanctuary, and magnificent buildings of both historic and architectural importance accessible to the public via various trusts. In addition to a range of agricultural products, quality wines, beers and a range of spirits are also produced locally, and are proving big tourist attractions.

So far, over 150 stakeholder organisations across education, research, business, health and the environment, theatres, museums and libraries, and the police, support the bid, which responds to the Culture Minister’s invitation for innovative, inclusive and exciting proposals, emphasising culture’s vital contribution to our lives, whilst also stimulating recovery and renewal.

Cllr. Gallant:

“We want to involve as many people as possible from local communities across both council areas, challenging low social mobility, addressing health and disability inequalities.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to engage with those from all walks of life to demonstrate their unique skills, securing a legacy for all of us into the future.

“Making our bid for City of Culture has raised awareness of how passionate we all are about our local – and national – cultural heritage. It has also raised aspirations amongst those who may have felt excluded. Our region is generally regarded to be affluent, but there is still a lot of deprivation, and it is our constant mission to reverse that by attracting investment and jobs. Having City of Culture status would undoubtedly bring massive benefits, and improve social integration.”

Cllr. Carl Smith, Leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, is delighted to be working with East Suffolk Council:

“It’s important that the extensive programme of events and projects reaches out to all parts of our communities.”

Having submitted their initial Expression of Interest, both councils now await a decision, in early September, on whether their bid will get onto the longlist of just six. If so, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport would award £40,000 to develop the application further, enabling local cultural and community groups to co-ordinate their creative ideas and plans.

Meanwhile, Banksy’s delightful artworks, protected by the local authorities, are drawing crowds of fans from across the country, allowing them to explore the region’s hidden culture.