Queen Victoria Square%2C Hull

We take a look at the shortlist for the 2021 UK City of Culture to see what each candidate has to offer groups.

The list has been unveiled and the battle is well and truly on for the UK City of Culture 2021 crown. 

In a year-long celebration of culture, the areas will be vying to take over the host title, currently held by Hull, which offers visitors a wide range of attractions such as Burton Agnes Hall and Sewerby Hall and Gardens. The shortlist has been selected from 11 towns and cities that had registered bids to win the award, which includes a £3m Heritage Lottery Fund grant. 

Announcing the candidates on Friday, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, John Glenn, said they had received ‘strong bids from across the UK’. The title is given every four years and the winner for 2021 will be chosen in December. 

We have taken a look at why groups should visit the five cities competing; Coventry, Sunderland, Paisley, Swansea and Stoke-on-Trent. 


Not only is Coventry the birthplace of one of England’s most loved poets, Phillip Larkin, but it has wealth of activity for groups, from historic sites such as Coventry Cathedral and Bagot’s Castle, to museums such as the British Motor Museum nearby and Coventry Music Museum. There's also plenty for groups with interests in horticulture and nature from Caludon Castle Park, to Arbury Hall, to Brandon March Nature Centre.

Coventry Cathedral

Pictured: Coventry Cathedral (photo credit: VisitEngland/jameskerr.co.uk)


Sunderland is believed to be where the first stained glass window came from and also has a reputation for its indie music scene. For theatre and performing arts lovers, there's the Arts Centre Washington and The Bunker which looks at developing music and arts in Sunderland. There's also the Royalty Theatre for those wanting to see a show on their trip. It's also got some great seaside spots such as Cannonball Rocks and Roker and Seaburn beaches.


This Scottish Town is home to around 76,000 people and is where Doctor Who star David Tennant grew up. It’s also well known for the Paisley Print, which is the intricate and delicate designs inspired by Kashmiri patterns of the 18th century. Also for groups, there’s Paisley Museum, Paisley Arts Centre, as well as Paisley Thread Mill Museum and Paisley Farmer’s Market.


Swansea has been shortlisted for the UK City of Culture before and is home to poet Dylan Thomas, offering a permanent exhibition which marks his 100th birthday. For visitors there's the National Waterfront Museum and the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, as well as the Dylan Thomas Birthplace & Family Home. If you like animals there's the Perriswood Archery and Falconry Centre and Penllergare Valley Woods for those wanting adventure.


Pictured: Stoke-on-Trent, the capital of ceramics (photop credit VisitEngland/Visit Stoke on Trent)


Known for its ceramic history, it’s a great place for groups who love art and design. On a trip you can visit Gladstone Pottery Museum, Middleport Pottery, Spode Words Visitor Centre and the Etruria Industrial Museum, among many that celebrate ceramics. There are also ceramic trails taking visitors through various locations and attractions with links to pottery. Besides ceramics there is plenty for all interests such as gardens like Biddulph Grange Garden, Rode Hall and Gardens, and Dorothy Clive Garden. There's also the Trentham Estate, which is ideal for groups and the World of Wedgewood and Stoke Minster.

All these cities provide activities for groups and group organisers considering a visit to any of the above cities, should check the websites for more details and information of group tickets.

Lead image: Queen Victoria Square, Hull (Photo credit: Visit England/Visit Hull and East Yorkshire/Les Gibbon/hullnews.co.uk)