Bradford, County Durham, Southampton and Wrexham County Borough are the four areas shortlisted to be UK City of Culture 2025.

Following on from Coventry’s 2021 title, the four locations were approved by culture secretary Nadine Dorries based on independent advice made to the government by a panel chaired by Sir Phil Redmond.

The finalists were narrowed down from a record twenty initial bids to eight longlist applications which also included Cornwall, Derby, Stirling and Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon.

All bids were asked to explain how they would use culture to grow and strengthen their local area, as well as how they would use culture to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The advisory panel will now visit the four shortlisted places before making their final recommendation in May. The winner will be announced this year in Coventry.

For the first time, the eight longlisted bidders received a £40,000 grant to strengthen their applications which were scrutinised by the advisory panel against published criteria.

The unsuccessful areas will each receive detailed feedback on their bids. Ministers and officials will also engage with them on how best they can maintain momentum and realise their ambitions in the future.

Sir Phil Redmond said, “Culture can act as a catalyst for community engagement, civic cohesion and a driver for economic and social change as previously seen not just in Derry-Londonderry (2013), Hull (2017) and Coventry (2021), but all those other places who went on a journey to develop their own cultural strategy. Simply taking part has proved a catalyst in itself.

“We have had a great longlist to select from, which made the shortlisting difficult, but I am now looking forward to visiting each of the shortlisted places with the panel to witness culture’s catalytic effect in action.”

Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 has seen more than £172m invested in funding music concerts, public art displays, the UK’s first permanent immersive digital art gallery, a new children’s play area in the centre of the city, the new Telegraph Hotel and improvements to public transport.

More than 43% issued to Coventry residents as part of the City of Culture went to financially stretched people or those facing adversity and a third of the cultural programme was co-created with local communities. A further £500m has been ploughed into the city’s regeneration since it was confirmed as the UK City of Culture.

Over £150m of public and private sector investment was invested into 2013 winner Derry-Londonderry while the 2017 winner Hull saw a 10% increase in visitor numbers during its tenure.