The competition to become the UK City of Culture 2025 is hotting up, and the four finalists - County Durham, Bradford, Wrexham and Southampton - have been bringing out the big guns to back their bids.

Here are some of the famous faces backing each city...

 

County Durham 

Tony Blair

Oxford Mail: Tony Blair is backing County Durham's bid to become City of Culture 2025Tony Blair is backing County Durham's bid to become City of Culture 2025

The polarising Prime Minister said: “Durham is a special city to me irrespective of my personal connection to it. It is of course dominated by its Cathedral, that magnificent example of Norman architecture which fills the landscape with its majestic beauty and size. Then there is the Castle and all the surrounding College Green, with the University giving all the traditional buildings a contemporary relevance and elegance.” “As a place of culture, it has been exceptional through the centuries, inspired great paintings, works of art and intellectual endeavour. “As the City of Culture, it would stand out. Its claims for such an honour are obvious and clear. I would love it to succeed.” 

Bill Bryson 

Oxford Mail: Bill Bryson outside the Durham University library that bears his nameBill Bryson outside the Durham University library that bears his name

The American travel author, whose breakthrough book ‘Notes From A Small Island’ brought an outsider’s perspective on every part of the UK, said: “I don’t know of any place that offers a greater depth of history, architectural magnificence and cultural vibrancy in a lovelier setting than County Durham – from its breath-taking coastline and the rolling hills of the Dales to the unforgettable city boasting a World Heritage Site. And it has the friendliest people in the country. What more could you ask for?" 

Jeremy Vine 

Oxford Mail: Jeremy Vine is backing County Durham in the City of Culture raceJeremy Vine is backing County Durham in the City of Culture race

The talk-show host said: "When I was a teenage, spotty, somewhat apathetic student, oh you really could not get me interested in anything apart from the obvious, and I arrived in Durham without a clue and I remember on day one rounding that little cobbled street and seeing, picked out by the spotlights because it was after sunset, the cathedral and realising that a thousand years ago, nearly, people had given their lives to this building and here it was nearly a millennium later and I was shuffling along looking up at it and that is why Durham needs to be the City of Culture, to be honest it is no contest is it? Show me any other city with a building like that." 

Tess Tickle 

Oxford Mail: Drag queen Tess Tickle says County Durham's most vibrant cultural offerings can be found in the smaller towns outside Durham city itselfDrag queen Tess Tickle says County Durham's most vibrant cultural offerings can be found in the smaller towns outside Durham city itself

The drag artiste said: “When many people think of County Durham, they think of our gorgeous city. When I think of County Durham, I think of all the small towns and villages that make County Durham amazing! County Durham has come so far over the years especially with regards to equality and diversity. As a drag queen growing up in a mining village within the county, I have had nothing but love and support from a community that I would say isn’t always given the recognition it deserves.  

“This bid gives us the chance to share with the world the amazing creations that are made right here in County Durham. If we can showcase what we do here it’s only going to grow our county, not only encouraging more and more people to visit the area but driving equality and diversity forward." 

Lee Ridley 

Oxford Mail: This Britain's Got Talent winner says County Durham's got cultureThis Britain's Got Talent winner says County Durham's got culture

The stand-up comedian, who won Britain’s Got Talent in 2018 with his ‘Lost Voice Guy’ routine, said: “I’m very proud to be from County Durham and that’s why I’m backing its UK City of Culture bid 100 per cent. Growing up with the likes of Beamish Museum, the Gala Theatre, and Durham Cathedral on my doorstep was definitely a big benefit to me and helped me get into culture at an early age. So, it would be great for the next generation of young people to be able to experience something similar. Winning the UK City of Culture bid would certainly help do that, so I wish County Durham every success.”  

 

Bradford 

Dynamo 

Oxford Mail: Pick a card, any card - and Dynamo hopes the judges pick Bradford as City of Culture 2025Pick a card, any card - and Dynamo hopes the judges pick Bradford as City of Culture 2025

Superstar magician Dynamo, who grew up in Delph Hill, Wyke, said: “Bradford is where my heart is and has always been a hidden gem; a place filled with magic and wonderful people. The city is often forgotten by the rest of the country and I believe it’s time to shine a spotlight on our future dreams. I’m proud to back this bid for Bradford to become the UK’s next City of Culture in 2025. Having seen first hand the hard work, passion and commitment of the local community, I really believe this is our time.” 

Gareth Gates 

Oxford Mail: Gareth Gates is backing Bradford.Gareth Gates is backing Bradford.

The Pop Idol runner-up said: "Wishing my hometown Bradford all the very best in its bid to be crowned UK City of Culture 2025. Well done to all those who have got us onto the shortlist. 

"With its hugely diverse cultural communities, great people and heritage, Bradford absolutely meets the criteria for this title. Come on Bradford!" 

Natalie Gavin 

Oxford Mail: Actress Natalie Gavin backs Bradford for City of Culture status.Actress Natalie Gavin backs Bradford for City of Culture status.

The Bradford-born actress, whose TV work includes Line of Duty and Gentleman Jack, said: “Bradford means so much to me. It’s the place and people that inspire me. Now is absolutely the right time for everyone to pay attention to Bradford, to see it how those who call it home do, and let themselves feel curious and excited about how much Bradford could do as UK City of Culture. I’m right behind the bid to make it happen.” 

Sandy Docherty 

Oxford Mail: Sandy Docherty is a big fan of Bradford's cultural mix.Sandy Docherty is a big fan of Bradford's cultural mix.

The Bake-Off contestant’s new Great Northern Cookbook features her version of Battenberg cake, a ‘Bradenberg’ reflecting how Bradford is home to, and welcomes, cultures from across the world. She said: “Bradford needs that chance to show the world it has something to stand up and be counted for. Bradford has a big heart and it needs something to get that heart beating again.” 

Adil Rashid 

Oxford Mail: Adil Rashid hopes Bradford bowls the City of Culture judges over.Adil Rashid hopes Bradford bowls the City of Culture judges over.

The World Cup winning Yorkshire and England cricketer said: “When people come together to play sport, or watch it, that shared experience is amazing and it stays with you. It’s the same with cultural events and I am 100 per cent behind the team, proud to put my name to Bradford’s bid for City of Culture in 2025.” 

Wrexham  

Sian Lloyd 

The weather presenter shared a video on social media saying that “Wrexham and culture go together like Wrexham FC and Hollywood actors”, a reference to the football club’s owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenny.

The Welsh national football team 

Oxford Mail: Dylan Levitt, Neco Williams and Harry Wilson - all from North Wales - with the Wrecsam 2025 flag.Dylan Levitt, Neco Williams and Harry Wilson - all from North Wales - with the Wrecsam 2025 flag.

Rob Page's men have thrown their weight behind the campaign, with the Welsh FA releasing a statement that said: "The Football Association of Wales itself was founded at the Wynnstay Arms Hotel in Wrexham in 1876 – and the town has been an integral part in the development and success of Welsh football ever since.

"Clubs in the town and the surrounding areas are rich in passion, history and tradition. The recent developments taking place both on and off the field will hopefully create an exciting and successful future and we as an association want to play our part."

 

Southampton 

Craig David 

Oxford Mail: Craig David is backing Southampton's City of Culture bid 6 days a week (he chills on Sundays)Craig David is backing Southampton's City of Culture bid 6 days a week (he chills on Sundays)

The UK garage pioneer said: “This city is bursting with culture, much of it self-made by the people of Southampton, and it will always be home in my heart. Now we have the opportunity to be part of the story of our future city and tell it to the world.” 

Floella Benjamin 

Oxford Mail: Floella Benjamin, beloved to generations of children, is among the high-profile backers for Southampton's City of Culture bid.Floella Benjamin, beloved to generations of children, is among the high-profile backers for Southampton's City of Culture bid.

The children’s TV legend said: “I arrived in England by ship on the 1st September 1960 as an excited 10 year old and the first place I saw through the cabin porthole was Southampton. Many Caribbeans, now known as ‘The Windrush Generation' settled there and made it their home. 

The city is and has always has been a place that has evolved and absorbed different cultures which has created a rich tapestry of diversity that inspires young people to reach their full potential. I feel certain Southampton will continue to do so long into the future, for generations to come.” 

Stacey Heale 

Oxford Mail: Stacey Heale, whose 'Postcards from the Storm' columns will live long in the memory of Southampton Daily Echo readers, is backing the city's bid to become 2025 City of Culture.Stacey Heale, whose 'Postcards from the Storm' columns will live long in the memory of Southampton Daily Echo readers, is backing the city's bid to become 2025 City of Culture.

The writer, who penned a powerful weekly column for the Daily Echo, Postcards from the Storm, documenting her life during her husband’s struggle with terminal bowel cancer, said: “I think Southampton inspires artists and creatives, by the diversity of the space. It's not just about the city centre, it's about finding these little tucked away spaces that have these great music stores or really interesting music venues or little galleries.” 

Jenny Packham 

Oxford Mail: Fashion designer Jenny Packham has designs on Southampton becoming 2025 City of CultureFashion designer Jenny Packham has designs on Southampton becoming 2025 City of Culture

The fashion designer said: “There's an enormous amount of creativity and energy. It's Southampton's time to shine.” 

Tommy Jessop 

The actor, recently seen in Line of Duty, said: “My message to the city of Southampton is: believe in yourself and follow your dreams and ambitions in life. Who knows where it might lead to.” 

Which of the four cities are you backing to win the competition? Let us know in the comments.