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City of Culture bid calls for a sensible approach.

Despite uncertainty over whether the council will actually put forward Birmingham to be Britain's first City of Culture, the city's blogs and forums have played host to lively debate on the form any bid should take - we round up the comments.

Last week Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw said he hoped Birmingham or its "city region" including neighbouring towns and cities would bid for the title of Britain's first City of Culture.

The winning city would host major events such as the Brits and the Turner Prize and enjoy free publicity worth up to pounds 200 million.

But given the city's recent history - losing out to Liverpool to host the European Capital of Culture event last year - the subject has sparked online debate over how the city should approach any bid.

Birmingham-based musician Rich Batsford was the first to comment on the story The Birmingham Post website, writing that he had mixed feelings about it.

He said: "I want to be clear that what we need to do is support and nurture what we already have in a sensible and organised way - not throw money at it blindly or spend millions on advertising campaigns that don't advertise anything in particular except some new brand or other nonsense jargon."

He put forward a list of cultural organisations which he believed should be involved, including the city's independent festivals Fierce, Supersonic and Flatpack, as well as organisations such as the CBSO and Birmingham Opera Company.

The list was extended by athadleypaul which put forward groups such as com-munitradio station Rhubarb Radio and the photography initiative the 4AM project among others.

Helga Henry, general manager of Fierce Earth, the organisation which runs Fierce Festival, said she would throw her weight behind any potential bid.

She said: "I absolutely think Birmingham should go for a bid.

"Events like Flatpack have been recognised by the Film Council as one of the seven festivals of national significance, Rhubarb Radio goes from strength to strength and Capsule are ten years old and it's their seventh Supersonic.

"That's in the independent sector but of course our big institutions are also doing really well.

"But this bid will only be meaningful if the city council does it in a way in which they can continue their current invest-menand have an aspiration to grow that level of investment, not just in niche festivals but in all organisations.

"It would be counterproductive or even stupid to bid for this title and cut arts funding at the same time.

"If it means that this is a way to protect and even enhance it I'm all for it."

Meanwhile, prompted by Rich Batsford and Coun Martin Mullaney's list on The Stirrer website of Birmingham icons such as Duran Duran and JRR Tolkien, Jon Bounds wrote about the need for more ambition on his site Birmingham It's Not Sh*t. He said: "Any large festival should be looking for new and innovative things - even if they must reflect our past."

He put forward his own list of suggestions including "Crossroads the Opera" performed by the Birmingham Opera Company, a Birmingham Comedy Festival and an arts cinema opening in the Central Library building, which he said was a "badly-needed legacy."

Jonathan Walker, the Birmingham Post's political editor, wrote on his blog: "My personal view is that the city should follow the same type of approach as Red Nose Day, when people are encouraged to come up with their own ideas to raise money for charity."

In response, Jon Bounds reignited the debate over the idea of a "creative director" for the city of Birmingham, along the lines of Peter Saville in Manchester.

He raised the need for "strong artistic leadership from a respected figure. A Creative Director if you will."

See the debate on the city's blogs http://


As part of the Fierce Festival, the birdman of the Rotunda clings to the side of the skyscraper. Below, Jon Bounds says there needs to be more ambition
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 20, 2009
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