Legacies of failure to win the City of Culture: liminality, civicism and change

Annemarie Ryan*, Gayle McPherson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
19 Downloads (Pure)


The European Capital of Culture Programme and the UK Cities of Culture Programme have emerged as important vehicles in the realisation of the promise of culture led regeneration. However, while value of bidding both in terms of cultural value and public value is well documented, less attention has been given to those cities that loose in their attempts to become Capital of Culture. Drawing on the works of Turner, we conceive of the bidding phase of a competitive cultural mega event competition as a liminal phase; where the ‘old’ rules of cultural organising are put into flux, and where novel or creative solutions can be re-imagined. Using a case study methodology, the paper draws attention to the ways the bidding process shapes the cities, and the legacy effects made possible through engagement in the process. We show how the competitive nature of the bidding process (often with cities competing with their close neighbours), enables a particular form of civic pride, that is, civicism to enrol stakeholder support to ‘do it for the bid’ and set the scene for transformation. We propose that the legacy of bidding is not just about winning (or not) but leveraging the process for sustainable change. We discuss how two places, in competing to host a cultural mega event, used the bid to create change to redress structural and social inequalities. While the emphasis in the current discourse is a ‘winner takes all’, we evidence that this does not do justice to the transformative effect of bidding for those cities that do not go on to host the event. The framework presented in this work offers cities a model to reflect on the transformative potential of bidding for yearlong cultural events.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100488
Number of pages9
JournalCity, Culture and Society
Early online date10 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2022


  • cities of culture
  • legacy effects
  • civicism
  • liminality
  • public value


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