Derry in culture crown bid
Londonderry has been named as a contender to become the UK's first City of Culture, it was announced today.
Birmingham, Norwich and Sheffield are the other locations which will battle for the inaugural title in 2013.
Culture Minister Margaret Hodge revealed the line-up after bids from 14 long-listed cities were scrutinised by an independent judging panel.
Derry City Council Mayor Paul Fleming said it was a significant step forward.
"This is a great statement of confidence in the city's cultural wealth and an endorsement of the commitment and effort so far.
"We look forward to building partnerships to progress through to the final stage," he added.
The year 2013 marks the 400th anniversary of the Plantation of Ulster by settlers from Great Britain and the building of the Walled City of Derry by the livery companies of London.
Each year the city attracts more than 600,000 visitors to cultural venues and generates over £11 million.
Chief executive of Ilex urban regeneration company Aideen McGinley said: "We're in this to win.
"The energy and commitment galvanised by the bid process to date will now re-double in the final push to bring together in a compelling way our cultural champions, venues, organisations and artists to showcase the unique talents of the city and region."
Sheffield City Council leader Paul Scriven said: "What fantastic news for the city.
"To be shortlisted to the final four just underlines the strength of our bid and Sheffield's future commitment to the arts and culture.
"This is a proud day for Sheffield and Sheffielders and I hope our city will be honoured with being named the UK's first ever City of Culture."
Sheffield-born actor Sean Bean said: "I am delighted to support Sheffield's bid to become the first UK City of Culture in 2013.
"Sheffield boasts an impressive array of cultural facilities, events and celebrations and is renowned for its diverse festivals around the city.
"As a city that prides itself on its history of creating culture, Sheffield has the passion and the capacity to make it happen.
"My message to the city is good luck with the shortlist, I think you've got the ability to go all the way and win it."
The panel will make its final recommendation on the winning bid in the summer, after it re-examines the bids again in June.
Among the locations which have been rejected were Swansea, Southend and Durham.
The scheme was set up in the wake of the success of Liverpool's tenure as European Capital of Culture in 2008.
Ms Hodge congratulated the final four today and said: "It's a testament to their hard work - and dedication to culture - that they've come so far in what has proven to be a very tough competition.
"I'm really pleased that we attracted such a strong and varied field. It just goes to show the richness of culture across the UK."
Phil Redmond, the TV mogul who chaired the independent advisory panel, said: "In deciding on the four cities recommended - Derry/Londonderry, Birmingham, Norwich, and Sheffield - the panel was influenced by the expected step change each city was asked to envisage if they gained the title and subsequent media spotlight."
Mr Redmond, who was creative director for Liverpool's year as capital of culture, added: "It was a hard choice but also heartening that all bidders had recognised the power of culture to bring people together; to work collectively within existing resources for a common goal and bring into being networks that may not have existed before.
"For those not on the shortlist, that is still a powerful and valuable achievement, with a reminder that 2013 is only the first time the title will be awarded. 2017 is not that far away."
Figures on the independent judging panel also include TV presenter Lauren Laverne.
Being crowned capital of culture is expected to provide a multimillion-pound boost to the successful location.