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European Capital of Culture 2023 - Nottingham reveals theme of bid: Breaking the Frame

Nottingham will draw on its heritage of rebellion, social justice and innovation in its bid to become the next UK European Capital of Culture in 2023.

Nottingham 2023: Breaking the Frame sets out how the city, one of the youngest and most diverse in the UK, will use its Robin Hood spirit to empower people to take culture back into their own hands. It will be submitted to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport on 27 October 2017.

Spearheading the Nottingham 2023 bid is Nottingham’s Strategic Cultural Partnership, with support provided by Nottingham City Council, the University of Nottingham, Nottingham Trent University and Marketing NG. It has the backing of leading artists, actors, authors, musicians and theatre makers, including Vicky McClure and Sleaford Mods, as well as cultural and civic organisations, sports clubs, businesses and residents.

Since announcing entry to the competition in August, almost 5,500 people have pledged their support through the Nottingham 2023 website and through signing up at events. In the process people in Nottingham have been asked what they would like to see change if the city becomes European Capital of Culture. Their answers have helped shape a compelling bid, which also builds on a public consultation to define Nottingham’s Strategic Cultural Framework earlier this year.

The title is inspired by the ‘frame-breakers’ of the Luddite rebellion which originated in Nottingham, then the global centre of the Lace-making industry, in 1811. The common misconception of the Luddites is that they were anti-progress and anti-technology. In fact they were an organised labour movement, comprised of skilled craftsmen, supported by Lord Byron and inspired by the social justice of Robin Hood. Wanting fairness, they challenged how technology was being used and for whose advantage.

Nottingham 2023: Breaking the Frame will be the city’s latest experiment in radical cultural democracy. It will challenge how and where culture is made, what it means, who it is made for and who can make it. In a city which elected to leave the EU by just 2,000 votes, the bid also sets out how working with European partners will give residents the opportunity to reframe their relationship with Europe though creative collaboration. The intention is that everyone will have the opportunity to take part in, to instigate and to benefit from international creative exchange.

Under two flagship programmes, Everyone is an Artist and Art Can Change the World, citizens of Nottingham and Europe will be invited to discover their own creativity and use it to address the challenges of the 21st century together. A series of Everyone is an Artist Cultural Hubs in housing estates, schools, and community centres will invite people to work with European artists, while Art Can Change the World will be linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals through a partnership with the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab.

Paul Russ, chair of Nottingham’s European Capital of Culture bid and of the Strategic Cultural Partnership comments: “We want to share our energy, our activism, our diversity and our commitment to doing things differently through a cultural programme that involves every corner of Nottingham, every citizen and every visitor. We want to unlock the creativity in every school, housing estate, social club and former mining communities and give people the skills to improve the quality of their lives.”

Artistic highlights of the programme will include:


  • The Lace Pavilion, a major public art project and a new cultural tourism attraction in Nottingham, a visual and architectural hymn to lace and to trade networks, a space for exhibiting new textiles techniques and exploring international connections


  • In the home of Torvill and Dean a series of Ice Dances will celebrate figure skating and the ‘ice spectacular’, bringing inventive European dance choreographers to create new dances, while an Ice Mirror will allow amateur skaters to connect with others across Europe


  • The European Luminaria Project - luminaria were originally conceived as well-being projects for socially excluded young people. Nottingham’s internationally renowned Architects of Air, whose workshop base is in St Ann’s, will develop a series of residency projects between local communities and partner communities in Europe to design and construct their own luminescent structures of colour and light


  • Poetry, Protest and Participation, curated by Nottingham’s Young Poet Laureate and UNESCO City of Literature, will pair poets from diverse backgrounds across Nottingham with those from different European nations to explore all sides of the city’s culture


  • Inspired by Ada Lovelace and in partnership with Game City and European Women in Games, Diverse Digital DIY will bring together independent game makers, hackers and creative technologists to use technology as a creative force for storytelling and social change


Cultural figures backing the Nottingham 2023 bid include:

  • Vicky McClure (This is England and Line of Duty actress)
  • Joe Dempsie (Game of Thrones actor)
  • Henry Normal (Poet and BAFTA Award-winning Film & TV producer)
  • Jason Williamson (Sleaford Mods vocalist)
  • Wolfgang Buttress (Hive artist)
  • Jenny Sealey (artistic director, Graeae)
  • Jon McGregor (3 x Man Booker Prize longlisted author)


All five of Nottingham’s major sports teams have also pledged their support:

  • Nottingham Forest Football Club
  • Notts County FC
  • GMB Nottingham Panthers
  • Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club
  • Nottingham Rugby Club


Nottingham businesses officially backing the bid include:

  • Annie’s Burger Shack
  • intu Victoria Centre
  • Nelsons Solicitors
  • NM Group
  • Nottingham Hospitality Association
  • Raleigh
  • Santander


The deadline for European Capital of Culture submissions to be made to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport is 27 October 2017. A decision on which bidders have made it through to the next stage is expected in the new year.

Find out more at or by searching for #Nottingham2023 on social media

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