THERE have been people living in and around what is now Southampton since before the Romans came - yet the city has existed in name and royal recognition for only 50 years.

Southampton became a city on February 24, 1964, when a Charter of Queen Elizabeth II created the City of Southampton.

Starting a year of celebrations, mayor Councillor Ivan White will throw open his parlour in the Civic Centre to local schoolchildren and citizens on the day Southampton received its city status 50 years ago.

Visitors will be greeted by the mayor to view the extensive collection of gifts from visiting dignitaries.

A portrait of the Queen, commissioned by public subscription following a successful campaign led by the Daily Echo 50 years ago, is a highlight of the other artworks displayed.

Later on the same day at 5pm, a service of thanksgiving will take place at St Mary’s Church.

Cllr White said: “I am really excited to be celebrating our 50 years of city status.

“Southampton in its 50th year has so much to celebrate, from our thriving port, to our award-winning city parks and venues, to our continuous improvement in educational attainment.”

A number of other events are planned to mark the anniversary throughout the year, including festivals and concerts.

Although the actual anniversary is next month, the summer will see the focus of the city’s celebrations, with events in the planning stage for Guildhall Square and other venues.

The Daily Echo will be playing its part in marking the occasion with a year-long focus on the past five decades.

As well as special features looking back at how our city and its region has changed since the 1960s, we will be looking ahead to what the future holds for one of the most vibrant cities in the country.

Towards the end of last year, civic leaders and representatives gathered at Southampton Solent University to agree on a scheme to raise 50 pledges from all aspects of life in Southampton, designed to make city life even better.

The idea came from a challenge issued by Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, when he spoke at a university event called Vision for 2020 held last October.

He challenged the city to pledge 50 commitments to mark 50 years, and the Echo is included in those pledges, with the paper ensuring we highlight (at least) 50 positive articles about city life every month in 2014.

We also pledge to support others making their own commitment to making Southampton a better place to live, work and play, so we want to hear from you about what you pledge to do.

This is the start of a momentous year for Southampton and its residents. We want future citizens to look back on our generation and say we marked it well.