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Here, in alphabetical order, are the cities, their respective websites and a choice excerpt from those sites with just a soup on of why they think they should win:
"The very thought of Belfast going for this title has raised a few eyebrows"
"We're the most creative city in Britain"
"Bradford is full of surprises" such as the largest Lowry painting in the world
Norman 'Fatboy Slim' Cook, the Brighton-based international DJ, said: "There's something going on, night or day."
"one of the most desirable places to live, work and visit in the country... Bristol is a model for all cities in the third millennium"
Canterbury and East Kent (website)
"the most European part of Britain"
"We want to underline a vision of the individual within the community, the city and the country networked through shared creative endeavour."
Inverness and the Highlands (website)
"a thriving cultural and commercial city set in some of Europe's wildest, most dramatic scenery"
"We are truly The World in One City"
Newcastle Gateshead (website)
"to change out-dated perceptions of the North East"
"Norwich has a wide range of excellent menswear shops" (sic)
I'm surprised at some of those names
"Few cities can claim to have added so much to the sum of human knowledge and culture as Oxford"
Let's just pretend you're talking about Oxford or Bristol rather than Inverness or Bradford and leave it at that. Everyone's entitled to have a go.
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When is the winner announced
The first stage of the process is underway with Sir Jeremy Isaacs leading the judges from one city to the next. A shortlist of five is announced in the autumn. They go to the European Council of Ministers in Brussels: they make the final decision next spring.
A bit of history
(Well, of course, a bit of history helps in the bidding process - old stuff being seen as particularly cultural. But we digress). The idea for a 'City of Culture' came from none other than Greek cultural icon Melina Mercouri, in the EU Council of Ministers in 1985. It rewarded "cultural heritage and... distinctive cultural identity and vitality" (that history thing again) and quickly became a plum prize for the big cities of Europe.
Nowadays, rather than offend anyone too much, each nation within the EU gets a turn at hosting what has become not just a City but a Capital of Culture.
What makes for a winning bid
Judging by their associated websites, a love of Flash technology appears to be a must, however much it slows down and frustrates the viewer. But that's another story.
Look at the proud holders of the current title: Salamanca in Spain (selling point - a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Bruges in Belgium (economic powerhouse of 15th century Europe and home to the great Flemish painters).
What does being the Capital of Culture actually mean
The successful city will show that they can stage a year-long programme of culture involving local people and visitors, but also that it can "mark a lasting change in the citys standing in its own eyes, throughout the UK and on the Continent." So it's not just what you've got, but what you will have that counts. A couple of the contending cities will be relieved at that.
And of course the winner benefits hugely in terms of investment, free-spending tourists and job creation as well as a hike in cultural activity.
London has, perhaps surprisingly, steered clear of the whole thing despite being the home of Tracey Emin, Raymond's Revue Bar and Chas'n'Dave. But many of the great cultural centres of Europe have held the title since its foundation:
2000: Joint holders: Avignon, Bergen, Bologna, Brussels, Helsinki, Cracow, Reykjavik, Prague, Santiago de Compostela.
2001: Porto and Rotterdam
2002: Bruges (website) and Salamanca (website)
...still to come before the UK hosts it...
2004: Genoa and Lille
2007: a city in Luxembourg, still to be announced (but it shouldn't take them long...)
... and thereafter,sttill unannounced cities in...
Is it worth it
The benefits seem to be overwhelming. Glasgow experienced social and economic regrowth along with an inspired cultural programme - and an 80% rise in tourism. The same is true elsewhere. And with a healthy cash investment from the European Union, the winning bid can expect to leave locals as well as visitors happy and inspired.