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Bidding for UK city of culture: Challenges of delivering a bottom-up approach “in place” for a top-down strategy led scheme

Isaac Cunningham (Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK)
Louise Platt (Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK)

Journal of Place Management and Development

ISSN: 1753-8335

Article publication date: 21 August 2018

Issue publication date: 11 July 2019




The UK city of culture (UKCoC) scheme developed out of Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture in 2008 and is synonymous with urban renewal. The purpose of this paper is to examine the challenges of bidding for this scheme.


The authors conducted semi-structured telephone interviews with bid team members from four out of the five short-listed cities for the 2021 award. Respondents were situated across the country and, at the time, finalising their Stage 2 bids. Thematic analysis was conducted to analyse the responses.


The UKCoC scheme is a top-down scheme which is delivered “in place”. The danger of the top-down vision is that local people cannot often conceptualise what it might mean within the context of their own locality. The findings here suggest that bid team members are attempting to do this despite obvious time pressures. The research presented here suggests that cities are reconciling the top-down, criteria-led nature of the scheme with a real reflection on how to make that work for their locality which is distinctive.

Social implications

The UKCoC scheme has proved to galvanise communities to reflect on the nature of their places and think about what makes them unique in comparison to the other bidding cities. The bidding teams acknowledge the challenges of bidding but there is a sense that competing is worth the investment.


This paper offers a unique insight into a recent competitive placemaking scheme and reflects on how placemaking can potentially be reconciled as both top-down and place-based.



Cunningham, I. and Platt, L. (2019), "Bidding for UK city of culture: Challenges of delivering a bottom-up approach “in place” for a top-down strategy led scheme", Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 314-325.



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Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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