Stirling’s cultural ambitions remain alive and well despite narrowly missing out on making the UK City of Culture 2025 shortlist.
Photo Credit: Bird on The Wire: The Songs of Leonard Cohen, live at Tolbooth, presented by 432. Photo by Heather Anderson

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced today (Saturday, 19 March) that Stirling, Scotland’s sole remaining representative in the competition, had missed the cut for the final four.

Bradford, County Durham, Southampton and Wrexham County Borough will now go head-to-head for the title with the winner set to be announced in May.

Arts Minister, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, said: “With a record 20 initial applications, this year we saw more interest in the UK City of Culture competition than ever before.

“I’m grateful to Stirling for all the hard work and commitment that went into its bid and I have no doubt that the city’s participation in the competition will have an impact that’s felt for years to come.”

Bold plans for the future

At the heart of Stirling’s bid was a belief that culture and the arts can bring transformative, long-lasting change for all its communities through regeneration, innovation and investment.

This aspiration will continue to underpin Stirling’s bold cultural plans by drawing on the incredible dynamism, talent and creative spirit that flows through its communities and has blossomed in recent months with the bid.

With or without the UK City of Culture 2025 title, Stirling has already committed to investing in culture to power inclusion, economic growth and regeneration.

Diverse programme of cultural events

A diverse and exciting cultural programme of events will also soon get underway to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of Stirling’s city status and the 20th anniversary of the opening of the historic Tolbooth venue.

Meanwhile, Scottish pop favourites Texas will be among the headliners at a special summer show at Stirling City Park, while Stirling will host the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships time trial venue next year as part of the biggest cycling event ever held.

Carol Beattie, Stirling Council Chief Executive, said: “Today’s news leaves us all feeling slightly deflated but we are not disheartened. The people of Stirling should still be extremely proud of what they have achieved and I would like to thank everyone who has worked so hard to get us here.

“The backing we received from across Stirling and indeed the whole of Scotland has been overwhelming. Sharing our stories of how people in Stirling are changing lives through the power of culture has been inspirational.

“The competition has also restored a sense of civic pride and optimism after the challenges of the pandemic.

“We have built strong partnerships across our communities that will help us unleash Stirling’s distinctive and inclusive cultural potential. We are working together and are more determined than ever to deliver on our cultural ambitions for the people of Stirling.

“Today is not the end, it’s the start of another exciting chapter. Stirling is alive with culture.”

Power of culture on people and communities

Sistema Scotland’s successful ‘Big Noise’ programme, which started in Stirling and has spread across Scotland, has also shown the regenerative power of culture on people and communities. 

Nicola Killean OBE, Chief Executive of Sistema Scotland, said: “Stirling’s bid for the UK City of Culture 2025 has offered a chance to showcase Stirling’s dedication to culture as truly inclusive and transformative for everyone.

“While unfortunately Stirling has not been shortlisted for the UK City of Culture on this occasion, the process has been a great opportunity to promote all that Stirling has to offer and think ambitiously about what it might achieve in the future.

“Big Noise Raploch opened in 2008 and since that time we have worked closely with the people of Stirling to ensure that music, nurturing relationships and the power of creativity has improved lives and strengthened communities here and across Scotland. We expanded this work to a second community of Fallin in 2021, another example of the genuine commitment to ensure culture is truly inclusive and transformative within Stirling.

“The City of Culture bid brought together many partners across Stirling and beyond to dream big about what we can do together, we will very much be looking forward to continuing that work to ensure we maximise the energy and vision this galvanised for the benefit of children, young people and communities."

Widespread support for Stirling's bid

High profile names such as actor Simone Lahbib and Dame Evelyn Glennie have backed Stirling’s bid in recent weeks, while more than 1,000 businesses, organisations and individuals pledged their support, along with Scotland’s leading arts, tourism, heritage and business organisations.

Stirling’s City of Culture bid was led by Stirling Cultural Board in conjunction with Scene Stirling, a place partnership involving Stirling’s arts, education, heritage and cultural organisations (Artlink Central, Macrobert, The Engine Shed, Creative Stirling, Stirling University, Big Noise, Stirling Smith, Forth Valley College Creative Industries, Go Forth – Business Improvement District and Stirling Council).

Kevin Harrison, Manager of Scene Stirling, which represents the city’s arts and cultural partners, said: “We’ve been on an incredible journey these past few months and it doesn’t end here.

“We’re committed as ever to working together to realise Stirling’s arts and cultural ambitions and now we have the road map to get us there.”