Southampton appoints Claire Whitaker as Bid Director to take forward UK City of Culture 2025 bid

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Claire Whitaker OBE, a Director of international live music and cultural events organisation, Serious, is appointed to take forward Southampton’s bid to become UK City of Culture in 2025. Serious' track record includes working with Hull and Coventry on their City of Culture programmes and with a huge range of partners across the UK. Claire, has extensive international experience, having worked with all 204 Olympic and Paralympic nations for the London2012 Cultural Olympiad as well as leading on projects in Africa, the Caribbean and Europe. Importantly, she has considerable experience and skills in diversity, inclusion and partnership working, together with finance, fundraising, governance and communications, including leading Serious’ learning and participation work for over two decades.

Claire’s appointment follows the Council’s joint motion and pledge in 2019 to commit to the pursuit of this prestigious title to deliver long standing benefits with and for Southampton’s communities, businesses, academic partners and the wider Solent region. National evidence shows that when Culture is truly part of the mix, it can lead to economic and social outcomes that bring lasting change for people and places.

Claire will formally head up the bid in the Spring, but is already getting involved to build upon the work that partners across the city have been undertaking to date, including preparations for the Mayflower 400 which has so far secured over £400K from external sources to deliver a programme which will be announced shortly.

Councillor Kaur, Cabinet Member for Communities, Culture and Housing said: “We’re thrilled that Claire is joining our city-wide movement to become UK City of Culture 2025. Claire has a fantastic track record of building and developing a sustainable cultural organisation, with far reaching connections at a national and international level. Work has been going on behind the scenes to make sure that we are in a position to take advantage of this unique opportunity through a collaborative partnership that includes the University of Southampton, Solent University, GO! Southampton, Solent Local Enterprise Partnership and many others. With Claire’s help we aim to engage with the city and make this journey meaningful to everyone.”

Councillor Fitzhenry, Leader of the Conservative Opposition Group at Southampton City Council said: "It’s a very exciting time for Southampton, and together we are looking forward to working with our communities and wider stakeholders to bring this prize home to the city. We look forward to welcoming Claire to join our team.”

Claire Whitaker OBE said: “I am really excited to be able to develop a bid for City of Culture 2025 that enables the people who live, work and visit Southampton to feel involved and inspired. This is Southampton’s opportunity, through consultation and collaboration, to create a compelling case for the City. By building on Southampton’s considerable strengths and bringing people of all ages and backgrounds together, we can develop something very special, with lasting cultural, social and economic benefit to the City and the wider region.”

Professor Julie Hall, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Solent University said: "Solent University will play a central part in the City of Culture bid and with Claire’s appointment confirmed we look forward to moving forward with this exciting project."

Louise Coysh, Associate Director, Arts and Culture, University of Southampton said: “The University of Southampton is delighted that Claire Whitaker, with her impressive track record, has been appointed to this important strategic role for Southampton. We look forward to collaborating with Claire, the city’s communities and all our partners, to develop a compelling Southampton bid for UK City of Culture 2025.”

Giles Semper, Executive Director, GO! Southampton said: "With Claire’s appointment we know that we can mount a strong campaign to be UK City of Culture in 2025. GO! Southampton will be right behind Claire when it comes to mobilising the city’s formidable business community and supporting our brilliant creatives. Finally the country will see what Southampton’s made of!"

So far, Southampton sits alongside Bradford, Lancashire and Thames Medway who have declared their intent to take part in the competition.