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County Durham finalises bid for UK City of Culture 2025



The inflatable artwork created by Steve Messam displayed at Durham Cathedral (Credit: Durham County Council)

County Durham are hoping to attract millions of visitors to the city by winning the competition.

The council announced County Durham had outlined plans for the Durham 2025 campaign and submitted the bid.

A year-long programme of arts, culture, sport, science and economics is hoped to win the council the name of the UK City of Culture.

If successful, the city would become the first county bid to ever achieve the status.

To celebrate County Durham moving a step closer to their victory, giant inflatable artwork, created by local artist Steve Messam, is being displayed at several locations across the city.

Leader, Cllr Amanda Hopgood, said: “It’s fantastic to be able to finally share our exciting plans for Durham 2025. County Durham has such a huge potential, and we are determined to bring together our extraordinary people, places and ideas to help transform not just the county, but the whole of the north east.

“This is a bid on behalf of the whole county. We want everyone who lives and works in County Durham to be a part of our journey and to reap the benefits of a successful bid. Our plans will involve every person, town and village in County Durham.

“Whatever your age or background, there will be a whole host of events and opportunities for you to get involved in during Durham 2025 so please do continue to get behind the bid.”

The programme includes a 12-month celebration in honour of Durham’s 1,300 year-history of space science, an international celebration of the bicentenary of the railways and a travelling fair that asks big questions about the local economy.

The Lumiere festival is expected to outdo every previous one and create a lasting legacy of jobs.

The Durham 2025 artwork displayed outside Raby Castle (Credit: Durham County Council)

Becoming the UK City of Culture could bring more than 15m visitors to the region and an additional £700m in visitor spending.

This could lead to a further 1,800 jobs in the tourism sector.

Partnering up with Durham University on behalf of Culture Durham, the two organisations share the belief that culture has the power to transform lives.

Chair of Culture Durham, Tony Harrington, said: “A vibrant cultural offer can truly transform communities. Not only does it help to bring people together, but it also raises aspirations and helps to create long-lasting opportunities for communities to get involved with cultural activities.

“We know that we have so much to offer already here in County Durham. But we also have a unique opportunity, through the bid, to demonstrate how culture can help skill and employment levels to soar, businesses to grow and high streets to thrive.

That is also something that so many other towns, cities and countries can also use for their own growth.”

The winner of the UK City of Culture will be declared in May, with the remaining contending cities being shortlisted further next month.

Vice-chancellor of Durham University, Professor Karen O’Brien, said: “We are proud to be principal partners of the Durham 2025 bid for UK City of Culture.

“Durham University is integral to the cultural vibrancy of the city and county. We are home to world-class museums and collections, our student music, theatre, sport and volunteering enriches our community life immensely, and we’re committed to sharing our learning and facilities to the benefit of the whole region.

“We think Durham would make an excellent UK City of Culture. We hope the judges agree and we look forward to being part of a rich and diverse programme in 2025.”

The winner will take the title from Coventry, who were ranked number one in 2021. Since then, the city has attracted over £100m in capital investment to support cultural projects.

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Seaburn and Roker Beaches Named Best Beaches in the Country in 2022



Sunderland’s beaches have been named among the best in the country for the 11th year running.

Seaburn and Roker were both named as winners of the Seaside Award by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy. The pair were once again handed Blue Flags, marking them out for their for their excellent water quality, cleanliness and attempts to constantly improve visitor amenities.

The Blue Flag awards, now in their 35th year, are issued by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy and act as ‘a quality mark so visitors can be sure the beaches boast top-notch facilities and meet the highest environmental standards’.

Linda Williams, Sunderland City Council’s cabinet member for Vibrant City, said: “It is fantastic to see Sunderland’s beautiful beaches once again awarded the prestigious Blue Flag and Seaside Award.

“Flying these flags at Roker and Seaburn shows everyone who visits that our seafront has excellent quality bathing water and first-class facilities.

“We’re very lucky to have fantastic beaches with beautiful, clean water to swim and bathe in, and this national recognition is testament to the hard work of everyone involved in keeping our beaches clean, tidy and well-maintained.”

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Family’s bid to bring home body of Gateshead lad who drowned while rescuing his dog in Spain



Paul Lebihan, from Leam Lane, who has been living in Spain, was pulled from a river near Benidorm by ambulance crews on Monday.

A Gateshead family is appealing for help to bring an ‘amazing, selfless’ 25-year-old home, after he drowned in Spain while rescuing his dog from a river.

Paul Lebihan, from Leam Lane, died on Monday after getting into trouble in the Bolulla River, near Benidorm, after successfully freeing the dog from the current. Now his family has launched a fundraising appeal to help bring Paul’s body back home and give him the memorial he deserves.

Paul’s cousin, Kallym Bell, launched a GoFundMe page in support of Paul’s parents, Deborah and Paul Snr. In less than 24 hours the page had already raised over £7,000, with hundreds of people leaving comments paying tribute to ‘one of nicest men you could ever meet’.

Keen amateur boxer Paul was well known by many people across the Leam Lane Estate, and beloved by colleagues from the several years he spent working in the navy. Kallym, 19, called Paul: “An amazing, selfless man with a heart of gold, always the biggest laugh and the very best to be around.”

Donations can be made to help bring Paul home at:

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Disabled Teen Denied Wetherspoon’s Entry With Assistance Dog



A disabled teenager said he felt ‘absolutely humiliated’ after he was refused entry to a Wetherspoons with his assistance dog. 19 year old River Cartledge, who has autism, fibromyalgia and arthritis – takes his assistance dog Chico most places with him.

Video footage below from Instagram shows him pleading with security guards and the manager of The Five Swans in Newcastle to let him inside the pub with his harnessed up Shih Tzu on Saturday night.

River said: “Their issue was the fact he was an assistance dog, and not a guide dog.

“I quoted the Equality Act 2010, and the guide for all businesses, both of which any business that’s open to the public like any Wetherspoons is, have to abide by legally, regardless of any “policy” they may have in place,” he added.

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits service providers, including taxis and restaurants, from discriminating against those who need an assistance dog with them. It also requires service providers to make reasonable adjustments for disabled customers.

River claimed he had a ‘severe meltdown and panic attack’ after the interaction. ‘I have never had an experience like this and it caused me to have a medical episode.’

Chico has belonged to River for eight years and was trained as an assistance dog two years ago. River said: “Assistance dog handlers such as myself get denied in public places more often than it’s talked about, and it always makes us feel like this, and like we’re the ones causing problems for ourselves by needing a dog, when in reality it’s the ableism and ignorance of other people, not the disabled person.”

He also added “‘I was straight up told that they only allowed seeing eye dogs and they didn’t allow assistance dogs, because of their “policy”.

According to Guide Dogs UK ‘75% of all assistance dog owners surveyed [in 2015] said they had been refused access to a service at some point because they had an assistance dog with them’. 

Five Swans: sign saying they allow assistance dogs *face palm*

Wetherspoons’ policy states: “We do allow registered assistance dogs.

“In these circumstances, and to avoid any confusion or unnecessary upset, ensure that your dog is wearing its recognisable leash/collar or harness. 

“It would also be helpful if you could bring along suitable documentation to explain your dog’s purpose.”

River said he had ID from Assistance Dogs UK, a certification body, with him but was unable to show it at the time. Chico was however wearing a harness.

Following the complaint to the pub chain, Wetherspoon’s spokesperson Eddie Gershon said: “It was an error not to let them in with the assistance dog.

“It was a genuine error and we apologise wholeheartedly.

“We can understand the fact they would have been upset and frustrated by the situation.

“Assistance dogs are allowed into Wetherspoon pubs and we will reiterate this to staff at the pub and the company’s pubs in general.

“They are more than welcome to visit the pub with the dog.”

Good dog Chico. Check out River and Chico’s adventures here!

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