City of Culture 2025: Focus Wales festival backs Wrexham bid

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By George Herd

BBC News

Image caption,

Jessie, Lilly and Evie are all flying the flag for the Wrexham 2025 culture bid at this year’s Focus Wales festival

Hundreds of music artists and thousands of fans have been flocking to back Wales’ bid to host the 2025 City of Culture.

Wrexham is one of just four places left in the race for the title, with judges arriving in the town within days.

The Focus Wales festival is a key part of the bid as Wrexham face Bradford, County Durham and Southampton.

The UK government will announce the winner later this month.

Image caption,

Festival co-founder Neal Thompson said it was an honour to be part of the City of Culture bid

“We’ve been in it since the beginning. We’re really happy to support the City of Culture bid,” said co-founder of the Focus Wales festival, Neal Thompson.

“Obviously Focus Wales is based in Wrexham, but we represent artists from across Wales, so this City of Culture bid is the Wales bid as well really.

“So we’re very supportive of that and the benefit it will bring to the area and the whole country.”

Wrexham is bidding for the 2025 title as an entire county, after rules for this competition were changed to allow areas of the UK to enter.

After an initial 20 bids, Wrexham was the only one from Wales to make it to the finals, and still hopes it can take the title and become the next City of Culture after the current holders, Coventry.

Entrepreneur Joanna Swash, who runs the hugely successful global office outsourcing firm Moneypenny in Wrexham, has chaired the bid team since the county threw its hat into the ring.

“I feel really, really confident,” she said as she visited the Focus Wales festival.

“We have got an extraordinary bid, an awful lot of detail, and I’m really proud of what the team has been able to put together in such a short space of time.”

She said the bid “stands out” because the entire community of Wrexham is behind it – including the music festival.

Image caption,

Joanna Swash believes they have a convincing bid for the 2025 title

“Focus Wales is a key part of our bid and we are very excited about the reach it will have as part of the City of Culture.”

The festival’s reach does appear to be growing year-on-year – even after an enforced break for the Covid pandemic.

This year it has attracted big names including pop legends Echo and the Bunnymen, who headline the final night.

Image caption,

Canadian diplomat Jonathan Sauvé was on his first visit to Wales to launch a major new arts project

It was also chosen by the Canadian government as its launch pad for a year-long programme recognising the cultural and artistic links between Wales and Canada.

“The Welsh people basically helped build Canada,” said High Commission of Canada diplomat Jonathan Sauvé.

“In this post-Covid era, I think there is much to celebrate, and what better way to do it than through arts and culture.”

Delwyn “Sheep” Derrick is a vocal supporter of the town, and said it was the people of Wrexham who have made the culture bid a success.

Image caption,

Delwyn “Sheep” Derrick said Wrexham has nothing to fear from the judges’ visit

He set-up the charity Belle Vue Football Club, to help those struggling against person adversity or living in poverty.

“Wrexham is a fascinating place. It’s never one thing or one person that makes Wrexham stand out,” he argued.

“It’s a multi-faceted town, a multi-talented town. We’ve got so much to offer and I’m excited to see what comes next.

“Wrexham is not a town – it’s a people.”

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