THE people of Southampton can win this.

That's the message from the woman heading the campaign to secure City of Culture status for 2025.

Claire Whitaker said: "We will be talking to as many groups as possible in the next few months and we are going to use technology to help with collating views and information, because out of that will come the themes of the bid and what its priorities are.

"I have been speaking to lots and lots of individuals in the four or five months and now it's about broadening out the consultation and making it focused on the people of Southampton and its communities."

The bid was formally launched last week and the decision on the successful city will announced in December next year.

Previous winners were Derry-Londonderry, Hull and Coventry for 2021.

Rivals for 2025 include Bradford and Medway.

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Claire said: "It was interesting to read an article in The Guardian someone saying that Southampton needed to find its soul. Lots of people wrote in to defend the city and so I think there is a definite sense of pride here.

"There a lot to build for the bid because it means that deep down people are really proud of Southampton and one thing I have noticed is that it hides its light under a bushel.

"It has some fantastic things but it doesn't talk about it in the way most cities would."

She said she had visited Southampton numerous times for shopping, sport and culture.

"So I came for a purpose, not necessarily to wander and just spend time. Now I can see there is so much in terms of heritage and culture and we need to bring that to the fore.

"For example our 20th century art collection is one of the best outside London, if not the best. And there are some really high quality artists here, they just aren't as well known about as artists from Bristol or Manchester might be.

"Whether we win the bid or not, I think Southampton will have a different story to tell at the end of the process but of course we are in it to win it. I do think we have a really good chance and a very compelling story."

Claire, who worked on the 2012 Olympics, believes it will be possible to reach and engage with all Southampton's different and diverse communities, in part with the help of existing networks.

"I will spend a great deal of time trying to ensure all voices are heard because without them we can't establish what our needs are.

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"Southampton is sometimes called a city of villages and I would hope at the end this it will be better connected.

"I think we might know each other better, especially in the post-Covid world where people are more concerned about their local community.

"Southampton will be put on the map in the way it isn't at the moment. It will be somewhere you come to, not come through."