Liverpool Wins European Capital of Culture TitleDate: 4 June 2003
Liverpool - home of the Empire, Everyman and Playhouse theatres - has been chosen as the European Capital of Culture for 2008. It beat out competition from five other UK shortlisted cities - Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Oxford and joint nominee favourite Newcastle-Gateshead - to take the year-long title.
The last UK city to be named the Capital of Culture was Scotland's Glasgow, which saw a significant rise in tourism and inward investment from the 1990 honour.
Originally called the European City of Culture, the scheme was launched by the European Union in 1985, conceived as a means of bringing European citizens closer together. It was renamed in 1999 and, to celebrate the millennium the following year, six cities - instead of the usual one - were named to share the title for a year. In all other years, the various EU member states take turns in nominating one of their country's cities for the honour.
Previous European Capitals of Culture have included Athens, Florence, Copenhagen, Paris, Lisbon, Madrid, Berlin, Stockholm and Dublin. This year's is Graz in Austria.
Liverpool celebrates its 800th birthday in 2007. It was once one of the busiest ports in the British Empire but suffered a major economic downturn as shipping lost importance in the 20th century. Artistically, the city is perhaps best known now for its contributions to pop music, not least as the home of the Beatles.
The Merseyside city's selection as the 2008 European Capital of Culture was decided by a panel of experts chaired by Royal Opera House chief executive Jeremy Isaacs and announced today by Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell. On hearing the news, Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside Louise Ellman commented: "This is a magnificent boost for Liverpool but it is also a challenge. We must use this opportunity to make the arts the centre of our regeneration as a top-class European city."
- by Terri Paddock