Organised by Southampton Culture Trust, the Southampton Forward conference took place at MAST Mayflower Studios in front of a packed auditorium.
Leader of Southampton City Council, Satvir Kaur and bid director, Claire Whitaker OBE were amongst those who took to the stage reflecting on Southampton’s City of Culture journey.
Cllr Kaur proudly remarked: “Since last year I’ve been constantly asked – ‘Was it worth it?’
“’Can you really justify continued investment in the middle of a cost-of-living-crisis?’
“My answer is yes; it was worth it.
“Yes it was worth bringing people, communities, partners and businesses of all shapes and sizes and the region together as we have never done before.
“Yes, it was worth working towards creating a shared ambition for our great, dynamic, diverse and creative city which everyone can get behind and be proud of.”
READ MORE: The legacy of Southampton’s 2025 City of Culture bid
She added: “It was worth the effort to put Southampton not only on the national map, but the global map, as a place where dreams become reality, where anything is possible, where people can want to live, work, study, visit and enjoy.
“Now that the spotlight has been put on our city, now is not the time to close the doors, or dim the light but it’s the time we need to maximise on that limelight and use it to help reach our huge potential that we know Southampton has, otherwise we wouldn’t be here today.
“So, it’s not a question of whether we can afford it.
“It’s a question of whether we cannot afford not to carry on the incredible work that emerged as a result of bidding for the UK City of Culture.”
READ MORE: City of Culture bid cost council £1.5m
During the proceedings local poet Issa Farrah-Kelly performed a reading of his poem encapsulating the spirit of Southampton.
That was followed by Claire Whitaker CBE who declared: “We all felt disappointed about not winning 2025 UK City of Culture, but we’ve shown how resilient we are.
“When the results came in, I felt that we’d walked up the hill together.
“We had two choices.
“We could either fall back down in a heap or we could carry on and I’m delighted that we’re all here today to celebrate our city coming back together, with an ambition to take Southampton forward.
“Today really is the beginning of the next chapter, as we share our hopes for the future of Southampton and how we can put the city firmly on the map.”
For finishing runners-up in the bid for 2025 UK City of Culture, Southampton, County Durham and Wrexham County Borough were each granted £125,000 by the government.
During the conference, Claire Whitaker said the investement would: “Drive the city’s cultural and visitor economy and strengthen our creative sector.”
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