The initiative, sponsored by the Mayor of London, will see two winners (one for 2019 and one for 2020) each receive over £1m to deliver a huge programme of events.
The project is inspired by the UK City of Culture and European Capital of Culture programmes.
The title won’t go to a borough just because of their past cultural record, rather it’s set to be awarded to those who show how they can best use the investment to enact real change.
And if public opinion is able to hold any sway, Croydon is in with every chance of being chosen the winner, after an online ITV poll at the end of last year showed that Croydon was the clear leader with 37% of the overall London vote when viewers were asked which borough they most thought deserved the title.
The result may well be because Croydon has already started to attract some amazing events.
Boxpark is going from strength to strength, the summertime rooftop cinema on top of Centrale has hosted classic films and DJ sets, the month-long Warhol exhibition recently took over the town centre and the Colors Croydon International Mela in Wandle Park provided the perfect platform to launch Croydon’s bid for 2019.
Councillor Tony Newman, leader of Croydon council, said: “2019 will be the first full year of the newly refurbished Fairfield Halls after we spend £30m bringing the venue back to life. It also marks 70 years of the London Mozart Players. There can’t be a better time for the cultural spotlight to shine on Croydon and this is a truly fantastic opportunity for arts organisations across the borough to share in this project.”
In addition to the Mayor’s promised funding, a further £500K is also expected to be handed to the top borough by backers including the Heritage Lottery fund and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
Croydon will also look to match the cash with £1 million of partnership investment.
In total that would put £2.5 million into Croydon’s cultural pot – more than enough to deliver a series of events and activities that would leave a lasting legacy and completely reshape the way people see the borough.
Councillor Timothy Godfrey, cabinet member for culture, leisure, and sport, said: “Saturday’s Mela really was a very special event and it signalled how as a council we are really serious about using culture to bring our communities together and be at the heart of our regeneration plans. I am sure that the Mayor of London will appreciate the road we are travelling down in rebuilding our cultural offer and grant us the title in 2019.”
Submitted in December, Croydon’s bid sets out a framework to demonstrate how the 2019 programme will meet the aims of the programme to improve life chances for young people, build stronger communities, bring about reputational change, put people at the heart of physical redevelopment, and enhance the vibrancy of the local cultural sector.
The bid website has full details.