Perth’s “post-Brexit” City of Culture bid could capture the imagination of judges, top designer Wayne Hemingway has argued.
The Fair City is just weeks away from learning if it has made the all-important shortlist for the 2021 crown.
An application, which highlights how a win could bring massive, long-lasting benefits to the region and its people, has been lodged with the UK Government.
In its bid, the Perth and Kinross Council team say the area is facing a “quiet crisis” of social isolation and low wages.
Many people living outside the city feel alienated and cut-off from Perth, and few travel into the city in the evening.
Culture, the bid team argues, could help improve connectivity with a shared sense of pride and place.
The bid has been backed by Red Or Dead co-founder Wayne Hemingway, who has been acting as an adviser to the local team.
The 56-year-old fashion designer was drafted in after helping Londonderry win the first UK City of Culture prize in 2013.
Speaking exclusively to the Courier as part of a week-long series exploring the details and benefits of Perth’s bid, Mr Hemingway said the Fair City stood a good chance against strong competition.
“Obviously Perth is a much smaller place than many of the other bidders and they’re doing this on a much, much smaller budget,” he said.
“But I think we’ve come up with some very interesting angles which I believe makes us the leftfield choice.
“Judges will be looking for an exciting bid and something that’s different from Hull or Derry. Although, having said that, you cannot second guess the judging panel and you can’t second guess what other cities have put forward in their bids.”
He said: “Its really a win for Perth whether it wins or not. Cultural regeneration is the best kind of regeneration because it comes from the bottom up.
“It’s always the longest lasting and most impactful financially and socially.”
Given the previous winners were Hull and Derry, does the fact that Perth is not a rundown post-industrial city count against it?
“I’m sure that will be discussed by judges, its bound to be,” Mr Hemingway said.
“But it can’t always be that kind of city that wins, because then it becomes too repetitive.
“It would be very disappointing if Perth was dismissed because of that.”
Mr Hemingway said one of the strongest parts of the bid looked at how culture could be used to help people across the region feel more connected and less alienated.
“It highlights a gap, and often a discourse, between city and rural dwellers,” he said.
“Perth’s team is looking at smart ways of bringing everyone together.
“It’s not an angle I’ve seen taken before, but I think it is definitely something that will get the judges’ attention.
“It is very much post-Brexit thinking. You look at the results from last year and you see how people in cities generally voted to remain, while people living outside of cities felt very let down and voted to leave.
“That could be a very interesting angle and if we are shortlisted to the final four, my gut feeling would be that is the thing we should really work on.”
Vessels and arteries
One of the most striking images of the Perth2021 bid is Wayne Hemingway’s design, showing Perth as the beating heart of Scotland.
He was inspired by the age-old vennels and alleyways in the city centre, which he has redrawn as arteries of the heart.
A successful bid could see these back streets transformed into bright and colourful thoroughfares.
Mr Hemingway dismissed the argument that money for the City of Culture campaign would be better spend elsewhere.
“The cultural and creative industry is the second biggest driver of the economy in the UK, in terms of wealth creation and employment,” he said.
“People say what do you want to invest in arts and culture for? Well, actually, it creates jobs — more than manufacturing and farming in the UK.
“It also benefits people’s sense of wellbeing. As well as making money, its something people enjoy doing.
“And when it impacts on health and wellbeing, then that reduces your NHS bills and if it impacts on education, then kids’ performance in school is better.
“The arts council is brilliant at measuring the impact of culture and it’s always so positive. Its far more positive than re-tarmacking a road.”
Mr Hemingway said the council’s “opening gambit” was impressive.
“They have clearly put the right amount of effort into this and if Perth gets on to the shortlist, there will be a lot more hard work ahead,” he continued.
“These things should not be left to a council though, we need the whole community to get behind this.
“Becoming City of Culture will bring hundreds of thousands of people who have maybe never been here before and if you come to Perth you can’t help but fall in love with its beauty, its locale, its architecture and its people.”
Second city centre party planned
Perth launched its 2021 campaign in spectacular style last August with a party in the city centre.
The event feature dancing trees, historic figures and actor Andy Gray clowning around outside city hall.
Now bid leaders have promised another party later in the year.
If shortlisted, it will be a chance to show judges how Perth can handle a large-scale shindig. And if Perth doesn’t make the final four, bid leader Fiona Robertson said it would be a chance to thank everyone for their contribution.
She said: “Our communities teams have been thinking about how we should celebrate our achievements, because whatever the outcome we have achieved so much.
“If we’re not shortlisted, I don’t think anyone involved in our bid would want to see the momentum and enthusiasm die away.
“So we are planning a series of events over the course of the next year, just to celebrate how far we’ve come.”