This year sees the start of some exciting planning for the cultural and heritage future of Belfast. Belfast is bidding to be approved as a Unesco City of Music by 2023. The bid is included in Belfast city council’s 10-year cultural strategy, which is out for consultation.
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The bid is one of a number of big ideas out for consultation inclusing a new visitor attraction which tells the Belfast story and film centre is also part of the plan.
The process began when Belfast had previously been bidding, alongside Derry and Strabane, to become the European Capital of Culture in 2023. However, the European Commission (EC) ruled that a UK city could not host the title after Brexit.
Thankfully the council’s strategy said that the EC decision should not be seen as “the end of a journey”, and instead all the heard work and though was directed into a futher consulation on just what culture means to the city.
Bright Ideas for the Future
The main result is that 2023 will be designated a year of culture, and it sis now time for local communities and organisations to begin to think about what that means to them and how they can get in on the act. In the run up to and in 2023 there will be a programme of immersive cultural activity on a scale that Belfast has never seen before.
The first step on that road has been announced by council wich also wants Belfast to be recognised as a City of Music by Unesco. Presently Liverpool and Glasgow are the only two UK cities to hold that title. To secure the designation Belfast must prove it can host national and international music festivals and events. It must also specialise in music education and have a number of big and small venues for concerts, gigs and recitals.
The city must also promote all genres of music and get as many people as possible playing and listening to it. It is here where local communities especially those who do not feature normally in the cultural offering of the city must get involved.
‘Landmark signature experience and unique sounds’
Plans for a new visitor attraction telling the story of the city will require a range of knowledge based contributions. While the draft strategy speaks: “a landmark signature experience in the heart of the city centre.” We are all aware of the lack of ‘shared’ story about this city. How the different and divergent stories and the competing cultures are all represented will be a central challenge.
The new city council strategy – called A City Imagining – is out for public consultation for 12 weeks. LEXXER Solutions will be working with a number of its community and charitable clients to understand and engage with this process, and to have their voices heard.
The importance of this strategy is clear since it will shape cultural, heritage and by implication tourism policy and practice for the next decade and will see the pathway for progression and funding for local communities.
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