The cultural scene in County Durham is thriving and having a positive impact on the local economy. 

A report, to be presented to Durham County Council’s cabinet tomorrow, will highlight the county’s growing reputation as a cultural hub and explore the economic effect this is having. 

Councillor Neil Foster, cabinet member for culture, regeneration and economic development, said, “Culture is a vibrant and rapidly growing area, which is key to the county’s economic development.”

“Creating a reputation for Durham as a progressive place with a strong sense of identity – a great place to live, work, visit or invest – paves the way to attracting employers to locate here, tourists to visit and businesses to trade with us.” 

“Furthermore, for the individual, culture has many benefits beyond simply entertainment and enjoyment. It can improve our health, our social situation and our education.”

County Durham Boosted by its Cultural Success
Durham’s Lumiere festival was a great success

The report will outline how the council became determined to promote the county as a cultural venue following Durham City’s bid for City of Culture in 2009. The report will also show how, through its membership of County Durham’s Cultural Partnership, the council has been working to make sure the county’s cultural sector achieves its potential.

The report will list County Durham’s recent cultural successes and highlights, including: 

  • Kynren, an outdoor arts show held near Bishop Auckland, which narrates the history of England and County Durham. 
  • The Open Treasure Exhibition at Durham Cathedral, which was developed thanks to an £11 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant. 
  • Lumiere 2015: over 200,000 people visited this four-night festival of lights held in Durham City. Lumiere will return in Autumn 2017. 
  • The Yves Saint Laurent exhibition: over 70,000 people visited the first UK retrospective of the designer’s work, which was held at Bowes Museum.
  • Durham Vocal Festival: a new event celebrating Durham’s musical traditions. 
  • The DLI Collection: a new research and study centre on Palace Green, Durham City, which is pioneering a new approach to storing, displaying and involving the community in the Durham Light Infantry collection of artefacts. 
  • The Flying Scotsman and the Great Goodbye: the highly successful Great Goodbye – a locomotive exhibition at The National Railway Museum at Shildon – attracted more than 100,000 visitors over nine days. A further 50,000 people attended 2016’s Flying Scotsman event at the same museum. 
  • 1916: No Turning Back. An immersive, walk-through experience of the sights and sounds of the First World War was created at Durham’s Gala Theatre to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. Over 5,000 people experienced it over five weeks. 
County Durham Boosted by its Cultural Success
The Flying Scotsman visits Shildon

The report will emphasise the importance of investing in County Durham’s cultural infrastructure in order to maintain and further grow the county’s cultural reputation.  

The Cultural Partnership and organisations such as Visit County Durham are currently working to do this with their Durham, Place of Light marketing campaign, which is aiming to change perceptions of County Durham.

A number of exciting events are scheduled for the near future in County Durham, including the Bishop Auckland Food Festival in April, the Durham Miners’ Gala, Brass, The Tour cycling event, Durham Regatta, Durham City Run and Durham Book Festival, as well as the return of Lumiere in November.

County Durham Boosted by its Cultural Success
Durham Cathedral’s Open Treasure Exhibition has been a cultural success

Also coming up is the 125th anniversary of Bowes Museum, which will be celebrated with a number of exhibitions. In addition, galleries dedicated to mining and Spanish art are due to open in Bishop Auckland.

Other highlights to look forward to include the expansion of Beamish Museum, the reopening of Auckland Castle and celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of the public railways.  


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