UK City of Culture 2017 contenders announced

Image caption Leicester mayor Peter Soulsby, who backs his city's bid, said the Curve theatre illustrates the quality and variety of performing arts spaces

Eleven places have put their names forward to become the UK City of Culture in 2017.

The government-led programme is inspired by Liverpool's time as European Capital of Culture in 2008.

The English contenders for the 2017 title are Chester, East Kent, Hastings and Bexhill-on-Sea, Hull, Leicester, Plymouth, Portsmouth and Southampton, and Southend-on-Sea.

Swansea Bay in Wales and Aberdeen and Dundee in Scotland are also competing.

The chosen place will succeed Londonderry, which is the City of Culture for 2013 and the first place to be awarded the title.

Image caption Plymouth Sutton and Devonport MP Oliver Colvile hopes the title will encourage investment in his city

Announcing the list of contenders, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said: "The competition brings together communities and creates economic and social benefits and I am pleased to see so many local authorities and different partners coming together."

All 11 places must formally submit their initial bids by 30 April.

The bids will be considered by an independent panel, chaired by Phil Redmond, creator of popular TV series including Grange Hill, Brookside and Hollyoaks, and a shortlist will be announced in June.

Mr Redmond said: "The UK City of Culture can be a real catalyst for change and I'm delighted so many places have registered their interest in the competition for 2017."

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