By Andy Martin

THIS is a huge moment in Southampton's long and proud history.

Today is the formal launch of the bid to win City of Culture status in 2025.

The exciting initiative promises to put our vibrant and historic maritime centre on the national and international map.

And it represents a huge opportunity not just for your city, but for the wider Solent region too.

An opportunity to celebrate the wealth of cultural activity already taking place, to showcase the area’s diversity and to address some of the challenges it is facing.

It is also a chance to achieve our ambitions and to make Southampton a destination city.

And everyone is being encouraged to get involved and play a part in turning the City of Culture dream into a reality.

The role of the business community will also be central to a successful outcome and businesses and leaders are being urged to get behind the proposal.

Businesses becoming partners will enjoy a big profile in the city and the wider region and have the opportunity to shape involvement in line with their business objectives.

Southampton is home to a quarter of a million people.

It has two universities, the busiest cruise port in the UK and a thriving commercial port.

It is a major destination for shopping and leisure and home to Premier League Southampton Football Club. The city also has an incredible maritime heritage and much else besides.

Winning City of Culture status would mean unlocking tens of millions of pounds of investment and bringing all our communities together in a unique way.

Culture is at the heart of community and it can bring lasting economic and social benefits and real lasting change for people and places.

The UK City of Culture title is given to a city for one year and the initiative is administered by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Claire Whitaker OBE, Bid Director for Southampton 2025 UK City of Culture, said: "The programme we will shape together will transform the profile and the prosperity of Southampton and use the power of culture to ensure we reach our full potential."

She added: "The people of Southampton are at the heart of this bid and we will work together to make a real difference to all.

"There is such a rich variety of culture in the city that it is the natural focus of a bid.

"I am proud to be leading this bid and am looking forward to an exciting programme which will achieve a great deal and leave a positive legacy for the city."

The chief executive of Southampton City Council, Sandy Hopkins, has stated: "Winning the bid will put the city and the surrounding Hampshire and Isle of Wight area on the map, literally and figuratively, bringing with it so many benefits for the people who live and work here.

"It will provide lasting economic impacts and give us a global competitive advantage, attracting new investment. It will highlight the role of our university in place-shaping, skills and creation. It will establish new businesses and create quality jobs."

She added: "It will make Southampton a destination city."