A bid has been made to tap into surging civic pride which saw tens of thousands of local residents rally behind Perth’s attempt to become UK City of Culture 2021.
Despite the bid ultimately failing, Perth and Kinross Council want to harness that enthusiasm in a project entitled ‘Beyond the Fair City’, designed to make Perth one of Europe’s “great small cities.”
Council chiefs admit Perth is currently “underperforming” as a cultural tourist destination but claim that with a series of artistic programmes in the pipeline, including the £16.6 million re-development of Perth Theatre, the situation can be reversed.
A report on Beyond the Fair City, drawn up by Fiona Robertson, Perth and Kinross Council’s head of culture and public service reform, reveals that although Perth failed in its UK City of Culture 2021 bid, it made “significant gains” by “reigniting” civic pride with thousands of local residents being involved in the campaign.
The Perth bid process led to around 27,000 people participating in more than 40 projects and resulted in backing from more than 100 businesses in Perth and Kinross, including Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), Stagecoach and Gleneagles Hotel.
Ms Robertson’s report recommends “further developing” Perth’s branding and promotion, developing a creative cities network across Scotland and northern England and delivering an “exciting” events and arts programme.
It also suggests that Perth should build digital skills among local companies.
Councillor Ian Campbell, leader of Perth and Kinross Council, said: “The scale of our ambition for Perth and Kinross remains. We want Perth to be one of the best small cities in Europe, and we will use culture to increase tourism, develop higher-value jobs, retain talent and reconnect people.
“To do that, we need to deliver on Beyond the Fair City — reaching out to all our communities, refusing to be defined by our past and making Perth and Kinross a fairer place for everyone.”
But he stressed that the local authority can’t do this alone.
“We need expertise and support from all sectors to realise our vision,” he added.
“The bidding process for UK City of Culture helped to make new connections and spark ideas and collaboration. Now is our chance to pull together and become an exemplar for other, similar towns and small cities across the UK.”
In her report, Ms Robertson commented: “Perth did not win the UK City of Culture 2021 but the gains we have made and the platforms on which we can build should not be underestimated.”