UK cities enlist PR support in bids to become European Capital of Culture 2023

A number of PR agencies are helping five cities throughout the UK battle it out to become European Capital of Culture 2023.

Aarhus, Denmark and Paphos, Cyprus share the 2017 European Capital of Culture title
Aarhus, Denmark and Paphos, Cyprus share the 2017 European Capital of Culture title

Each year the EU designates two cities as Europe's Capital of Culture. The current European Capital of Culture title is shared by Aarhus in Denmark and Paphos in Cyprus.

In 2023 the UK's winner will share the title with a city in Hungary. Both cities are expected to organise cultural events, which are designed to boost investment and create jobs in the area.

Announcing the competition last year, culture secretary Karen Bradley said: "Celebrating the cultural heritage and innovation in Britain's cities is part of our plan for an outward-looking, globally minded and dynamic country."

"The UK is leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe. We want that relationship to reflect the kind of mature, cooperative relationship that close friends and allies enjoy", she added. Previous capitals have included cities from non-EU states, such as Istanbul, and Stavanger in Norway.

The UK's winning city will be revealed before the end of 2018.


As reported by PRWeek last month, Midlands agency Cartwright Communications has won the contract to provide regionally focussed public relations and digital support to Nottingham's bid. It will work alongside the board of Nottingham 2023, which is led by the city’s Strategic Cultural Partnership and includes support from the city council, the University of Nottingham, Nottingham Trent University and project management firm Marketing NG.

Paul Russ, chairman of the Nottingham 2023 board, said: "Cartwright is heavily involved with creative ideas for the bid. We want to give everyone in Nottingham the opportunity to take part in a project, production or experience and nurture the next generation of creative producers and cultural leaders."

Four Colman Getty handles national PR for Nottingham's bid. 


Dundee's bid is led by Leisure & Culture Dundee, and is supported by Dundee City Council and backed by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate and Dundee and Angus Chamber of Commerce.

The bid includes support from MCPR Scotland, a new partnership between Dundee-based agency Patter PR and London firm Murray Chalmers PR.

A spokeswoman for the university said: "MCPR are tasked with shaping our overall media strategy, including liaising with national media, deciding timelines and creating press photo calls."

Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes Council, meanwhile, appointed London PR agency Houston last year to handle PR around its 50th anniversary, which is this year. The council's head of comms Kellie Evans told PRWeek the agency would assist with the bid launch as part of its appointment.

Asked whether the council would call in any further support, Evans said: "If we're shortlisted, we'll think about our further PR needs then."


Leeds' bid, which it announced in 2015, includes collaboration between the council, the education sector, and corporate sponsors. 

A spokesman for the council said: "Last month we launched the #makeleeds2023 campaign, calling on as many people as possible to pledge their support for the bid before it is submitted in October."

The council has appointed Finn Communications to assist with press duties around its bid. 

Belfast, Derry and Strabane

A spokeswoman for Belfast told PRWeek much of the work on its bid is currently being handled in-house by comms pros from across Belfast, Derry and Strabane - which are working on a joint bid. 

However, the spokeswoman said: "MCE Public Relations have been appointed to handle some strategic comms for us."

Read next: Which PR firms have made it onto the Government's tactical agency roster?

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