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Luton drops bid to become City of Culture 2025

Luton Carnival Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Luton International Carnival will return to the town centre in 2020 despite the council dropping its bid for UK City of Culture 2025

A town has dropped its bid to become UK City of Culture 2025, after setting aside £350,000 to spend on events to raise its profile.

Luton Borough Council said it would instead establish a "town-wide creative skills project" and focus on "developing local artists".

City of Culture status aims to publicise an area's creativity, as well as attracting investment and tourism.

A spokeswoman for the council said it "may still consider a future bid".

The Labour-run council used 2019 as a "pilot" year to see if it could formally bid to become the UK City of Culture in 2025 and set aside £350,000 to host various events in the town.

Six pilot events held last year, including one to commemorate the centenary of the Peace Day Riots in the town, were not well attended.

In a statement, the council said: "Following a successful year of exciting cultural events [...] the council has decided to build on that momentum by making its priority the development of Luton-centred creative projects aimed at nurturing and expanding the arts and cultural talents that are so clearly present among its own population."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Luton holds one of the largest one-day annual carnivals in the country

Liberal Democrat councillor David Franks said he was "not surprised" the bid had been dropped, saying money had been invested in the "wrong place".

He said: "If you want to make a serious bid for City of Culture, which is not what they've been doing, then you really need to make sure that the cultural things that are going on in the town are well-supported and appreciated."

Leader of Luton Borough Council Hazel Simmons said the pilot year "was a huge success" and was a chance to see what the council did well allowing it to focus on those areas.

The council said money invested had been put to "excellent use" to encourage local talent and that the possibility of bidding for the honour in the future still remained

Areas bidding for the title of UK City of Culture 2025 are: Medway, Tees Valley, Bradford, Lancashire and Southampton.

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