SOUTHAMPTON has been named as one of four areas shortlisted in the final stages of the UK City of Culture 2025 race.

It has made it through after facing tough competition from areas across the country. 

Branded a "moment of celebration", Southampton is up against Bradford, County Durham and Wrexham County Borough.

An expert advisory panel is now set to visit each of the four locations before making a final decision in May.

Daily Echo:

Since Coventry won the competition in 2021, it has seen more than £172m pumped into its economy.

Director of Southampton's Bid, Claire Whitaker OBE has said a "huge debt of gratitude" is owed to "so many people" for the achievement. 

"Three years of sustained work and thousands of people supporting us – not just in the communities of Southampton but across the wider Solent region.

"The bid has brought the city together, embracing the world of creators, children and young people, artists, academics, businesses, and civic leaders.

Daily Echo: Claire Whitaker OBE, Director of Southampton UK City of Culture 2025 Bid.Claire Whitaker OBE, Director of Southampton UK City of Culture 2025 Bid.

"Southampton is undeniably a great British city. It is the nation’s front door."

Reported benefits of winning the prestigious title include attracting millions of pounds in additional investment to help boost regeneration, a year in the cultural spotlight with hundreds of events encouraging participation in the arts, and growth for tourism. 

Speaking to the Echo, Arts Minister Lord Parkinson praised Southampton's cultural offering including the Mayflower Theatre and the art gallery adding that if successful, a boost to tourism in the city is to be expected. 

"Congratulations for getting through the shortlist. We have had 20 places bidding this time so they have done really well," he said. 

READ MORE: Watch the Southampton City of Culture short film

"It's testament to the partnership work that has been done. I don't envy the judging panel because there has been stiff competition."

Lord Parkinson added that advantages won't just be seen by cultural attractions, but businesses and residents across the city. 

The winner is due to be announced this year in Coventry 

Sir Phil Redmond, Chair of the City of Culture Expert Advisory Panel, said: “Culture can act as a catalyst for community engagement, civic cohesion and a driver for economic and social change as previously seen not just in Derry-Londonderry (2013), Hull (2017) and Coventry (2021), but all those other places who went on a journey to develop their own cultural strategy."

Daily Echo: Tommy Jessop. Photo credit: Sophia Spring.Tommy Jessop. Photo credit: Sophia Spring.

Line of Duty star Tommy Jessop joins Southampton City of Culture 2025 bid

Line of Duty star and multi-award-winning actor, Tommy Jessop, has been announced as ambassador for Southampton City of Culture bid. 

The actor who starred as Terry Boyle in the popular TV show and Mencap ambassador joins the bid's list of people backing Southampton in the competition. 

The first professional actor with Down’s Syndrome to play Hamlet, Tommy is also Ambassador for the National Down Syndrome Policy Group.

He said: “Culture means living your life to the full every single day. I want the city of Southampton to be even more diverse. One way is to bring people into the performing arts and theatre.

"My message to the city of Southampton is believe in yourself and follow your dreams and ambitions in life and who knows where it might lead to.”

READ MORE: Royston Smith 'optimistic' after meeting with Nadine Dorries

Claire Whitaker OBE, Bid Director for Southampton said having Tommy supporting the bid is "both exciting and important".

“His incredible acting resume on both screen and stage, and his extensive charitable work and his passion for widening participation is truly inspirational.

"We are proud to have his backing and for him to join our cohort of amazing ambassadors who are actively supporting our bid.”

Tommy joins the bid’s diverse cohort of ambassadors, including Baroness Floella Benjamin DBE, Sally Churchward, Craig David MBE, Kristianne Drake, Charlotte Edwards CBE, Dame Wendy Hall, Peter Hull MBE, Zakir Hussain, Larry Kazingizi, Gus McKechnie, Lawrie McMenemy MBE, Kuti Miah, Jenny Packham, Kate Prince MBE, Don John, Dr Abdoulie Sanneh, Jayanti Shah MBE, James Ward-Prowse, Bill Woodrow and Thelma Bishop Young.

Daily Echo: Shelina Permalloo and Craig David.Shelina Permalloo and Craig David.

City of Culture win would 'change of our lives' says Southampton bid chair

If Southampton was to win UK City of Culture 2025 it would change the lives of everyone living in the city, the chair of the city's bid has said. 

Masterchef winner, Shelina Permalloo, said the opportunity for Southampton to become the cultural heart of the UK is "full of promise for a wonderful future". 

Shelina said: "Opening my own restaurant here in my home town means so much to me, being able to play a real part of a community that I love.

"But Southampton winning the title of UK City of Culture will change all our lives."

READ MORE: Southampton Masterchef winner cooks for 7,000 school children

Meanwhile, music star and Southampton bid ambassador, Craig David MBE has also spoken out about how proud he is of the city adding that he owes everything to his beginnings in Southampton.

"This golden opportunity must not be wasted. I want the world to know that Southampton is worthy of this title and that I wholeheartedly back the city to realise its dream to be UK City of Culture 2025.” 

Daily Echo: Cllr Daniel Fitzhenry.Cllr Daniel Fitzhenry.

Council boss pledges to continue working with partners in bid for UK City of Culture

Southampton's council boss has pledged to continue working closely with partners across the city as it enters the final stage of the City of Culture competition. 

Cllr Daniel Fitzhenry said everyone is "absolutely delighted" that Southampton has been chosen to be one of four areas shortlisted for the title. 

The eight longlisted bidders received, for the first time, a £40,000 grant to strengthen their applications which were scrutinised by the expert advisory panel. 

READ MORE: 'All the luck in the world': Southampton's City of Culture bid goes in

Cllr Fitzhenry added: "We will continue to work closely with our vibrant and diverse communities, excellent businesses, world class universities and regional partners to deliver a distinctive and high-quality bid internationally.

"This selection has built upon a tremendous amount of hard work which has gained real momentum over the last two years. 150 businesses, cultural and community organisations, and 10 neighbouring local authorities are all backing us.

"We have learnt so much more about our city and place together – the needs, the opportunities, and the way in which we can bring about transformation the city and region needs to reach its full potential."