Hastings challenges Southend MP David Amess over jibe

Jerwood Gallery The £4m Jerwood Gallery is one of the jewels in Hastings's cultural crown

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An MP who dismissed rival cities' bids to become the UK's City of Culture has been challenged to sample the cultural delights of one of those he condemned.

David Amess said his comment that Southend's challengers were "absolute dumps" was a light-hearted attempt to generate debate and local pride.

It prompted Hastings Borough Council to invite the Southend West MP to visit the Sussex resort.

Mr Amess said he would take some convincing of Hastings' superiority.

Hastings and Bexhill are mounting a joint challenge for the chance to become UK City of Culture in 2017, arguing that they have admirable cultural merits.

They were dismayed to hear that Mr Amess had labelled all Southend's rivals "dumps", and Hastings council leader Jeremy Birch has challenged the MP to see why.

Piano concertos

He said: "I don't know when he last visited our town, indeed if he ever has.

"We can take him to the Jerwood Gallery and to the De la Warr [Pavilion, Bexhill], perhaps a walk in the country park and then in the evening we can listen to three piano concertos played by the [Hastings International Piano Concerto] competition finalists.

"Hastings and Bexhill have every reason to bid for City of Culture status."

2017 City of Culture shortlist

  • Aberdeen
  • Chester
  • Dundee
  • East Kent
  • Hastings and Bexhill-on-Sea
  • Hull
  • Leicester
  • Plymouth
  • Portsmouth and Southampton
  • Southend-on-Sea
  • Swansea Bay

Mr Amess said: "If they want to talk about pianos, we have a fantastic young pianist, Ben Grosvenor, who has played at the Royal Albert Hall.

"A gallery? Our council was council of the year last year.

"I wish them well, but I get the feeling the whole of the UK is backing Southend's bid."

'Transformed'

Mr Amess's Conservative parliamentary colleague, Amber Rudd, who represents Hastings and Rye, is confident the Sussex challenge will have the last laugh.

She said: "Hastings has come a long way. It has been transformed.

"I sympathise with the fact that he is going to lose."

The contenders who have put themselves forward to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport have until 30 April to submit their formal applications, which will be whittled into a shortlist by an independent advisory panel.

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