Northern Ireland

Belfast, Derry and Strabane in 2023 capital of culture bid

titanic belfast
Image caption Belfast's Titanic recently came out on top of a poll of world travel attractions

Belfast, Derry and Strabane are to work on a joint bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2023, the BBC has learned.

In a joint statement, the councils in each areas confirmed committee approval for the plan.

However, they stressed that the process was at an "early stage."

They also said they would consult widely "across the cultural community, alongside input from the voluntary, public and private sectors".

The councils now have six months to submit an initial bid to Westminster's Department for Culture, Media and Sport by October 2017.

Derry previously held the title of UK Capital of Culture in 2013, while Belfast failed in a bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2008.

Image copyright pacemaker
Image caption Belfast is one of the three NI destinations tabling a joint bid.

A Belfast city council document obtained by the BBC said that an "ambitious and robust" bid is expected to cost between £500,000 and £1m.

Officials from Belfast, Derry and Strabane have held initial discussions and said a joint bid would be a "stronger proposition" and "help share resources".

The document also states that a proposal for a new purpose-built visitor attraction in Belfast city centre would be included as part of the bid.

"Securing the European City of Culture would be a major coup for Belfast, Derry-Londonderry and Northern Ireland," it continues.

Every year, two cities are designated Capital of Culture by the European Union (EU) and organise a series of cultural events.

The UK was already lined up to host the event in 2023 before the country voted to leave the EU in June 2016.

Image caption Part of the lumiere festival during Derry's 2013 UK City of Culture celebrations

However, it is understood that should not affect a UK city becoming European Capital of Culture.

Three non-EU cities have held the title in the past - Istanbul in 2010, Stavanger in Norway in 2008 and Reykjavik, Iceland, in 2000.

UK cities have previously been European Capital of Culture twice - Glasgow in 1990 and Liverpool in 2008.

Hosting the year-long programme of events can bring increased investment, create jobs and boost the local economy.

"It is estimated that Liverpool's 2008 year was valued at £170m with a £800m economic return," the Belfast City Council document states.

"A number of UK cities have a significant head start in bid preparation."

"Therefore, a more committed effort will be needed here."

Some other cities across the UK - Leeds and Dundee, for example - have already announced that they will bid for the 2023 title.

The winning UK city will be announced in late 2018.

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