THE RACE to be crowned UK City of Culture is heating up after the judges visited Southampton on Friday.

Led by Chair Sir Phil Redmond CBE, the ten-person panel met community groups, creatives, artists, and businesses who are supporting the bid.

Southampton was named as a finalist earlier this year and is competing against Bradford, County Durham and Wrexham County Borough for the coveted title.

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Daily Echo: The judges exploring Southampton by boat on May 13The judges exploring Southampton by boat on May 13

Today, a warm welcome was given by Weston Park Primary School who cheered and waved enthusiastically on Weston Shore as the judges sailed past.

Headteacher James Wiltshire said: "I would be really pleased if Southampton wins.

"The vision for the City of Culture matches our own vision of creating opportunities and chances for children.

"It is all about making sure arts and culture are celebrated.

"I really hope Southampton wins, I think this city deserves it."

Daily Echo: Weston Park Primary School pupils welcome the judges at Weston Shore, Southampton Weston Park Primary School pupils welcome the judges at Weston Shore, Southampton

For Head Boy and Head Girl Ryan Stewart and Edith McCurry, both 11, winning the City of Culture will support Southampton communities.

READ NEXT: Southampton businesses band together for UK City of Culture bid

Ryan said: “Winning the City of Culture will help the community in general and support places such as little shops, but also bigger places such as the towers here on Weston Shore.”

Edith added: “We should win because it makes our city the place to be and it will definitely help our school.

"This gives us a good chance to make our city a place with culture and variety.”

Daily Echo: Weston Park Primary School pupils welcome the judging panel at Weston Shore, SouthamptonWeston Park Primary School pupils welcome the judging panel at Weston Shore, Southampton

The independent expert panel then explored the city on foot and visited iconic Southampton landmarks such as God’s House Tower and the Saints Pub in Millbrook.

READ MORE: Five places that prove Southampton should be crowned the City of Culture

The panel later enjoyed a lunch prepared by City College hospitality students, under the guidance of MasterChef winner and SO25 UK City of Culture Chair Shelina Permaloo.

Head of City College Sarah Stannard said: "We are right in the centre of Southampton but our students come from across the city, so I think the City of Culture would be a huge benefit to all students and staff.

“There is so much talent and opportunity in Southampton and sometimes people can’t see it.

“City of Culture gives us a chance to really show people that they should be part of the community.

“Today, our hospitality students are cooking on a scale they are not used to working at.

"All our students have come together to make sure this event happened."

Level 2 Hospitality student Kirsten Johnson, 17, says hosting the panel was "a good experience."

She said: "It has been quite a good experience and is different to what we normally do.

"Winning City of Culture will give people an opportunity that they did not have before, and Southampton will be a better place."

This visit comes after the judging panel explored the other three finalist cities earlier this week.

The winner of the City of Culture will be announced at the end of May.

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