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City of Culture joy for Leicester

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Leicester and three other rivals have made a short-list of contenders for the UK City of Culture 2017 title. Today 11 cities bidding to succeed current holder, Londonderry in Northern Ireland, were whittled down to four. Members of the team behind Leicester's initial bid gathered at De Montfort Hall this morning to await the Government's decision on which cities would remain in the running. A nervous city mayor Sir Peter Soulsby took a phone call informing him of the verdict before an expectant crowd. Sir Peter listened intently to news from officials before announcing: "My goodness, I don't believe it. We are through." The decision was met with joy by those who had gathered to discover the fate of Leicester's bid. The successful announcement was celebrated with performances of Indian music as well as dancers from the Caribbean Carnival.
Leicester, Dundee, Hull and Swansea Bay have made the cut, leaving one-time bookies' favourite Chester, alongside Aberdeen, East Kent, Southampton and Portsmouth, Plymouth, Hastings and Bexhill, and Southend by the wayside. A delighted Sir Peter said: "Obviously I was nervous awaiting that call because nobody had any idea what the outcome would be. "It was hard to imagine Leicester not making the final four because it has such a strong cultural offer. "We haven't won it yet but I am now absolutely convinced Leicester deserves to be UK City of Culture 2017." A final decision on the winner will be made in November. Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival founder Geoff Rowe is a member of the consortium behind the city's bid. He said: "I was terrified we wouldn't make it but at the same time phenomenally confident in the bid we had put together. "We now need to build on the support we have had from so many groups and organisations. "We want to do some amazing things in Leicester in 2017 which have a long-term impact on the city. "We'll celebrate for a bit, have a drink but then get to work on detailed plans for what we are going to do if we win. "We have to work out which amazing artists and creative people we want to invite to the city. "We still haven't seen the bids of the other cities. They are probably going to be very good indeed and we need to top them." Up to now the only few details of Leicester's bid to have been revealed. Its City of Culture year would begin at the end of 2016 to incorporate the renowned Diwali celebrations, which draw in tens of thousands of visitors a year, and Bonfire Night. A mass participation drama production of Richard III's story is also planned as well as the use of a major mobile light show. The Government has told contenders it should expect to need £10 million of public cash to fund a year-long programme of cultural events. Leicester City Council has agreed to underwrite the sum as it believes winning the title will have huge benefits for the city economy repaying any investment many times over.

City of Culture joy for Leicester


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