Separate bids next time to become City of Culture

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LESLEY KEATING: A white-knuckle pursuit ending with a lesson in trust

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We hate to be smug but... we did warn you.

Portsmouth jumping into bed with arch-rivals Southampton to make a joint bid to become UK City of Culture was always bizarre.

Note the title. City of Culture. Singular.

Combining south Hampshire’s two cities into one amorphous artistic gloop was never going to impress the judges and The News said so here.

So, it came as little surprise when we were knocked out in the first round to the likes of Dundee, Leicester, Swansea Bay and, er, Hull. Hull? Really? We’re sure these places have much to offer, but cities of culture?

It’s enough to make you wonder whether this government-inspired beauty contest is worth entering at all.

But let’s be charitable and assume it is. After all, it does appear to be doing something for Derry-Londonderry this year, even if it is only measured in terms of publicity gained.

Stephen Baily, the head of culture at Portsmouth City Council, naturally put on a brave face when confronted with the obvious. He says: ‘We are disappointed not to have been short-listed, but what this bid has shown is that we’re already on our way to becoming a region famed for its culture.’

And he was even upbeat enough to declare that Portsmouth would continue to work with Southampton to ‘drive up recognition of the region’s culture’.

And Portsmouth-born celebrity DJ Rob da Bank is equally muddled when he says: ‘I still feel Portsmouth and Southampton have an incredible journey ahead of them in terms of our growing culture across so many disciplines and I intend to stay firmly involved in their continued development.’

Both Mr Baily and Mr da Bank are wrong.

We said it before and we’ll repeat it – these two fine cities are strong enough in their own right to make separate bids for the title. And that’s exactly what they should do when the competition comes around again.

Blue or red, it does not matter. But please, no more of the colour purple.