Culture in County Durham is thriving and is having a significant impact on the economy, councillors will hear next week.

A report on cultural activity in the area will be presented to members of Durham County Council’s Cabinet when they meet in Spennymoor on Wednesday, 15 March.

The paper highlights recent achievements, offers an insight into the economic value of the county’s growing reputation as a cultural hub and focuses on current initiatives such as the This is Durham, Place of Light marketing campaign.

Cllr Neil Foster, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for culture, regeneration and economic development, said: “Culture is a vibrant and rapidly growing area, which is key to the county’s economic development.

“Creating a reputation for Durham as a progressive place with a strong sense of identity – a great place to live, work, visit or invest – paves the way for attracting employers to locate here, tourists to visit and businesses to trade with us.

“Furthermore, for the individual, culture has many benefits beyond simply entertainment and enjoyment. It can improve our health, our social situation and our education.”

The report outlines how the council developed a renewed ambition to see culture in the county grow following its bid in 2009 to become City of Culture 2013 and how, particularly through its work as a member of the county’s Cultural Partnership, it has been working to ensure the sector realises its potential.

It lists the county’s recent cultural highlights and successes, including:

  • Kynren – an outdoor arts show telling the history of England and Durham, which attracted audiences of more than 100,000 in 2016.
  • Durham City Run – a new event, which saw more than 2,000 runners take to the streets of Durham City last year.
  • Open Treasure Exhibition at Durham Cathedral – developed thanks to an £11 million investment by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
  • Durham Book Festival – the festival provided a record economic benefit in 2016 of £764,000.
  • Lumiere 2015 – more than 200,000 people attended the four-night light festival, creating a £9.6 million boost to the local economy.
  • Yves Saint Laurent exhibition – the first UK retrospective of the designer’s work, held at the Bowes Museum, attracted more than 70,000 visitors.
  • Durham Vocal Festival – a new event celebrating Durham’s musical traditions.
  • The Durham Hymns – a newly commissioned suite of hymns commemorating the Battle of the Somme and involving 360 musicians and singers.
  • DLI Collection – a new approach to storing, displaying and involving the community in the stories of the Durham Light Infantry, with a new, modern research and study centre and the new DLI Collection Gallery at Palace Green.
  • Flying Scotsman and the Great Goodbye – arguably the county’s most successful exhibitions to date, the Great Goodbye attracted more than 100,000 visitors over nine days, with a further 50,000 people attending the Flying Scotsman event.
  • 1916: No Turning Back – an immersive walkthrough experience at the Gala Theatre recreating the sights and sounds of the Battle of the Somme, it drew more than 5,000 visitors over six weeks.

The report emphasises the importance of investing in the county’s cultural infrastructure in order to maintain and grow its cultural reputation.

And it describes how the Cultural Partnership and Visit County Durham are working to do this, with initiatives including the development of the high profile This is Durham, Place of Light national marketing campaign, which aims to change perceptions of Durham.

The paper gives details of the council’s cultural calendar for 2017, including the return of Lumiere, Bishop Auckland Food Festival, the Cycling Tour Series and Tour of the Reservoir, Durham Regatta, the Miners’ Gala, Brass, Durham City Run and Durham Book Festival.

This year will also see the launch of the Bowes Museum’s major exhibition programme and its 125th anniversary celebrations as well as the opening of the DLI Collection Gallery, at Palace Green, Durham, and the Mining and Spanish Art Galleries, in Bishop Auckland.

Over the next couple of years, the county can look forward to the Return of the Gospels to Durham Cathedral, the Remaking Beamish project, the reopening of Auckland Castle, and celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of public railways.