Nottingham questions legality of exclusion from European Capital of Culture award

Nottingham leaders, along with those from five other cities bidding for European Capital of Culture status have urged the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to take urgent legal advice following last week’s news that UK cities would be barred from entering the race for the title.

A letter sent last week by the European Commission stated that none of Belfast, Dundee, Leeds, Milton Keynes and Nottingham would be able to officially put themselves forward as a nominee.

Leaders of the five cities have subsequently met with representatives of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) including John Glen MP, parliamentary undersecretary of state for arts, heritage and tourism.

A joint statement noted that the meeting was “positive”, with the five adding that they were encouraged by the department’s commitment to “try and resolve this issue with the European Commission and agree a clear way forward for the cities involved”.

“We urged the department to continue its negotiations with the European Commission on the legitimacy of its latest decision,” it said. “In particular, we wish to highlight that the announcement by the European Commission counters a very recent decision of the European Parliament in June 2017 and of the Council in September 2017 which includes a calendar confirming the UK as the host country in 2023.

“In addition we are seeking clarity given that the United Kingdom has not yet left the EU and the terms of that departure are not yet agreed.

“We have collectively, therefore, requested that DCMS takes further advice on the legal status of the announcement as a matter of urgency.”

The statement – which was co-signed by Jon Collins, leader of Nottingham City Council; and Paul Russ, chairman of Nottingham 2023 – also acknowledged the huge and passionate support received locally, nationally and internationally.

“In particular, we appreciate the support from previous and future European Capitals of Culture, and from members of the independent judging panel which itself had expected to be interviewing our teams this week as part of the formal shortlisting process,” it said.

“It is further evidence of the power of arts and culture to bring the peoples of Europe closer together.

“The five cities were united in their desire to find solutions which will enable them to realise their cultural ambitions and further develop their cultural integration with people across Europe.

“The meeting also allowed us to consider jointly how we ensure the local energy, enthusiasm and work done by our cities and partners to date can be positively harnessed and recognised even if the Commission maintains its position. This sudden change of heart has the potential to disrupt well over 100 cultural collaborations across the continent which bidding cities have been developing in good faith.

“We all recognise the urgent need to reach a conclusion in a timescale that allows us to harness the momentum in our cities. Therefore, intensive and constructive discussions will continue over the coming weeks.”