Food is key ingredient in Durham’s bid for City of Culture

Food and its ability to bring people together will be essential ingredients in County Durham’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2025.

The idea of food as an expression of cultural identity will be explored through the People’s Food Project, one of several initiatives being developed as part of the bid.

As well as recognising the county’s culinary offer, with special events to bring communities together, the People’s Food Project will explore food culture to increase access to healthy food in communities across the county, while creating opportunities for people to get together and learn more about other cultures and cuisines.

Culture Durham, a partnership of organisations including Durham County Council and Durham University, is leading the bid and has teamed up with social enterprise REfUSE Durham to develop the People’s Food Project.

Located in Chester-le-Street, REfUSE is committed to reducing food waste, raising awareness of the climate and ecological impact of food waste, and creating an environment where good food, good company and opportunities to learn new skills are available to those who want them. The team, led by Mim Skinner and Nikki Dravers, takes in 13 tonnes of unwanted food each month and redistributes it across the region. This includes serving up imaginative dishes at the REfUSE ‘pay as you feel’ community café.

“We are very big on creativity here,” said Mim. “Every day is like Ready, Steady, Cook – the ingredients arrive in the morning and our big team of volunteers decide what to put on the menu that day. When I talk to people in the café, there is sometimes a block when it comes to arts and culture. However, even though going to a gallery may not be everybody’s thing, food certainly is. Food is creative and collaborative and so many stories are told while preparing and eating it. The fact this will be recognised in County Durham’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2025 is fantastic. Not only will it allow us to create more opportunities for our communities to enjoy healthy food together, but we will have a platform to promote the true value of food and challenge the systematic problems that lead to waste.”

The details of the People’s Food Project are still being drawn up, but it is anticipated that one element will be a series of events combining cooking, eating, and storytelling.

County Durham’s expression of interest to be UK City of Culture was submitted by Durham County Council, with principal partner Durham University, on behalf of Culture Durham. The Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport is expected to announce the finalists at the end of this month, with the full bids to be submitted by January 2022. The winning location will then be announced in May.

To find out more about County Durham’s bid and to leave messages of support, visit follow @Durham2025 on Facebook, @Durham_2025 on Twitter and @Durham2025_ on Instagram. The public can also submit ideas to help shape County Durham’s bid at

Pictured: Mim Skinner (left) and Nikki Dravers of REfUSE (Credit Donna-Lisa Healy)

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