Milton Keynes pulls out of culture capital race

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The Independent Online

Milton Keynes bowed to what cynics might call the inevitable yesterday and confirmed it would not be entering the race to be 2008 European Capital of Culture.

Milton Keynes bowed to what cynics might call the inevitable yesterday and confirmed it would not be entering the race to be 2008 European Capital of Culture.

The Buckinghamshire new town, which has long been associated more with its concrete cows than its high culture, said that it had considered challenging such cities as Bristol, Oxford and Cardiff for the title.

However, a spokesman for Milton Keynes Council said there was a better case for spending the bid money on local cultural facilities. "A project like this would involve a lot of resources and we would prefer to use the resources to build on what's going on here," he said.

Nominations for the title close on Sunday and judging will begin shortly after the Government announces a panel of experts. Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, will ask the Prime Minister to ratify her recommended city next spring. Among the expected contenders are Newcastle and Gateshead, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bradford, Oxford, Brighton, Norwich, Canterbury and Bristol.

Although the capital of culture title does not come with a large European or government grant, the associated publicity leads to increased visitor numbers and private investment worth hundreds of millions of pounds. Glasgow, the last British city to win the title, was transformed by its victory.

Milton Keynes defended its aspirations to the title. The council spokesman said: "We have got some 200 public works of art. We have got a new theatre and arts centre that opened a year ago. We have the Open University here as well. As well as the national hockey stadium and headquarters."

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