Failure to launch: Aberdeen's bid for UK City of Culture 2017

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


In 2012, Aberdeen announced its intention to bid for the title of “2017 UK City of Culture”, with a campaign which, like many preceding it (Richards and Palmer, 2010), focussed on the potential of the event to transform the city’s cultural landscape. Whilst Hull succeeded in winning the title, and a bid from near neighbour Dundee received plaudits whilst reaching the final shortlist, Aberdeen’s bid was rejected at the first stage of the application process in summer 2013. In the period following this announcement,the bid and its delivery team received considerable criticism within the city (Press and Journal, 2013) and in the formal feedback which indicated that the bid failed to “deliver a compelling case in terms of vision or deliverability” (Regeneris Consulting, 2013).Drawing upon a range of previous research in the terrain of ‘event bidding’ (Westerbeek et al, 2002; Emery, 2002; Getz, 2004),this paper examines the Aberdeen bid in detail in order to ascertain the issues leading to its lack of success. Building on the bid documentation and official feedback, the paper presents additional testimony in the form of interviews with the bid team and a range of stakeholders across the city’s cultural sector to examine the weaknesses of Aberdeen’s campaign and the lessons which can be learned from the process. This data raises a range of concerns with the bid. In addition to a range of issues unique to the local environment which impacted negatively on the bid at a practical level, it is argued that the bid team struggled with two key issues which have wider resonance. Firstly, Aberdeen’s campaign demonstrated a naivety towards the dominant ‘externalities’ (Foley et al, 2012; Smith 2012) agenda which typically dominates the award of titles such as UK City of Culture. Secondly, the bid failed to control the internal stakeholder environment and influence the citywide consultation process which took place as part of the bid (Richards and Palmer, 2010). It is suggested that these issues combined to deliver a bid which was hastily conceived, naively executed and poorly articulated. However, the research indicates that significant lessons have been learned from the 2017 bid process and the city is, as a result, better positioned for future award bids.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes
EventSummer Conference of the Leisure Studies Association 2014: Sport, Festivity and Digital Cultures - University of the West of Scotland, Paisley, United Kingdom
Duration: 7 Jul 20149 Jul 2014 (Conference website.) (Conference programme.) (Conference Programme)


ConferenceSummer Conference of the Leisure Studies Association 2014
Abbreviated titleLSA 2014
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
OtherLSA 2014, Sport, Festivity and Digital Cultures brings together comparative and contrasting perspectives upon both the digital age in leisure and upon digital practices as leisure - as prevalent in cultural forms, such as sport or festivity and other leisure pursuits. The conference takes place in a particularly important year for both Scotland and the global sporting and cultural communities. Scotland plays host to the XXth Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the Ryder Cup in 2014 at Gleneagles. Culturally, 2014 also marks the second “Year of Homecoming”, encouraging the successors of the global Scottish diaspora to return home for a year of cultural “extravaganza and festivity.
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