Wakefield City of Culture 2025: Everything you need to know as district bids for UK culture title, taking on Bradford, Southampton, Chelmsford and more
As the Wakefield district officially throws its hat into the ring for the title of City of Culture 2025, this is everything you need to know about the bid - and what it could mean for the city and wider district.
Below, you'll find links to a whole host of articles about the city's bid for the City of Culture crown.
We'll update this page with more links over the next few weeks, as the council's expression of interest is finalised.
Where is Wakefield, and what does it have to offer?
The Wakefield district is located on the River Calder in West Yorkshire, to the south east of Leeds and just a few miles away from Bradford which is also competing for the 2025 title.
Home to the cathedral city of Wakefield, as well as towns including Pontefract, Castleford, Ossett and Normanton, it has a rich cultural history stretching back hundreds of years.
Traditional industries in the district have included mining, wool spinning and brickyards.
But its history stretches back much further in some areas - with structures such as Sandal Castle and Pontefract Castle having stood for almost 1,000 years, and exciting artefacts dating back to the Romans and earlier frequently uncovered in and around Castleford.
Those with a sweet tooth might also recognise Pontefract as home to traditional liquorice snacks Pontefract Cakes, which have been produced in the town for centuries.
The district is also known as part of the Rhubarb Triangle, a nine square mile area of land between Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell which traditionally produced part 90% of the world's forced rhubarb.
Each year, it plays host to three big events: Wakefield's Rhubarb Festival, Castleford's Roman Festival and Pontefract's Liquorice Festival, which draw thousands of visitors to the city and surrounding towns to celebrate their history.
In more recent years, the opening of attractions such as The Hepworth Wakefield, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Production Park has shone a new light on the district, and brought new talents to the forefront.
What could City of Culture mean for Wakefield?
Wakefield Council confirmed its intention to bid for the City of Culture crown in June 2021, just a few weeks before the initial application deadline.
Though this application may have come a little later than others - fellow competitor Southampton announced its bid in 2018 - the district's leaders are confident that they will have a firm shot at the title.
In fact, council leader Denise Jeffery told the Express in an exclusive interview that she was not prepared to take no for an answer.
To try and work out what the title could bring to the city, your Express took a look back at previous winners, who reported record visitor numbers and skyrocketing investment in the months and years after they secured the City of Culture crown.
And Local Democracy Reporter David Spereall, who was working as a reported in Hull when it served as City of Culture in 2017, said he believed that winning the competition "could genuinely transform the district" - as long as it was handled well.A change in the rules for this year's application process means that groups of towns are allowed to work together to apply for the title, and Coun Jeffery has promised that, if Wakefield is awarded the crown, she will ensure the rewards and investment are spread equally across the district.
Who is backing the district's City of Culture bid?
Backing for Wakefield's City of Culture bid has flooded in since the announcement was made last month - with big businesses, independent teams and hundreds of individuals promising their support to the campaign.
Jenny Layfield, the director of the National Coal Mining Museum, said she believed the title could play a key role in "bringing together communities".
And the CEO of Production Park, a South Kirkby-based live events hub which has worked with artists including Ed Sheeran, Beyoncé and Take That, said it "gave cause for optimism and celebration" after a difficult year.Also well-acquainted with the music industry are Paul Kempe and Nick Keynes, who are currently heading up the multimillion pound regeneration of Wakefield's Rutland Mills, which they hope to turn into a state-of-the-art creative hub, complete with luxury hotel.
Speaking earlier this week, Paul said he believed Wakefield not only had what it takes to win the City of Culture title, but also to become "cooler than Leeds".
Among others to have backed the bid are Topsy Turvy Theatre, Wakefield Civic Society and the Hepworth Wakefield.
How can I get involved with the bid?
It has been just a week since Wakefield Council confirmed the district would be entering into the running for the City of Culture 2025.
In this time, dozens of people, businesses and local groups have come forward to back the bid, promising their skills, support and expertise to the competition.
It would be impossible to name everyone who has offered their support to the district’s City of Culture bid - but we want to give you the chance to get involved.
Ahead of the Expression of Interest submission deadline in July, your Express wants to hear from everyone who’s supporting the bid.
Next week, we will be publishing a list of every individual, group and business who has backed the district’s entry.
Want to get involved? Email your name, a message of support and details of any group or business you represent, to [email protected] with the subject “City of Culture 2025” to offer your support.
We’ll print a full list of supporters in next week’s paper, and publish your messages of support on our website.
Submissions should be received by noon on Monday, July 5.
Know of a cultural attraction you'd like to see featured in the bid? Use #Wakefield2025 to share your thoughts and ideas on social media.
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