The wait is nearly over for the four places in the running to become UK City of Culture 2025.

Judges from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport visited each of the shortlisted cities this month and a decision is set to be announced on live TV on Wednesday.

Here's everything you need to know.

UK City of Culture - what is it?

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Giant mechanical spider 'La Princesse' was one of thousands of cultural events during Liverpool's time as European City of Culture in 2008. Picture: Geograph/Wikimedia CommonsGiant mechanical spider 'La Princesse' was one of thousands of cultural events during Liverpool's time as European City of Culture in 2008. Picture: Geograph/Wikimedia Commons

The UK City of Culture programme was developed by the UK Government to build on the success of Liverpool as European Capital of Culture 2008 by creating a national cultural event spread over a year and focused on a particular city or area.

In 2009, following a competitive selection process, Derry in Northern Ireland was selected as the first UK City of Culture and held the title in 2013.

Hull held the title in 2017, and Coventry is the UK's current City of Culture.

According to the UK Government, the overall aim of the UK City of Culture programme is to encourage the use of culture and creativity as a catalyst for regeneration, to promote the development of new partnerships, and to encourage ambition, innovation and inspiration in cultural and creative activity.

Cities and areas that bid for the title will need to spell out their own vision for UK City of Culture and how they will use it in making a step change in their area and creating a lasting legacy.

The key to the City of Culture is about regeneration of the area that wins the status. 

Which cities are on the shortlist?

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Bradford, Southampton, County Durham and Wrexham are the four shortlisted finalists in the UK City of Culture contest.Bradford, Southampton, County Durham and Wrexham are the four shortlisted finalists in the UK City of Culture contest.

The four places on the final shortlist are Bradford, Southampton, County Durham and Wrexham.

Why are counties and towns bidding for City of Culture?

While there must be a clear central urban focus to the area (this could be a city or large town, two or more neighbouring cities or towns, or a closely linked set of urban areas), part of the programme can be delivered in a wider area.

Any wider area should be reasonably accessible to visitors and residents across the area. Bids and programmes that are diluted across a wide area will be viewed less favourably than those with a strong central focus.

County Durham's bid was deliberately pitched to include more than just the city of Durham itself; Bradford's includes areas of cultural interest far from the city centre like the Bronte Parsonage in Howarth; and Wrexham was not a city at all when it placed its bid - although it has since been awarded city status to mark the Queen's Platinum Jubilee.

How much is this costing local taxpayers?

Longlisted entries each received a grant of £40,000 from the central government for use preparing the final stages of their bid, so the cost of the process has been spread around the whole country rather than local taxpayers in the bidding areas.

What have City of Culture judges been looking for?

Maldon and Burnham Standard: A parade marking the end of Coventry's time as City of Culture. Picture: PAA parade marking the end of Coventry's time as City of Culture. Picture: PA

The UK Government has issued the following list of objectives that must be met to be crowned winner:

  • Deliver a high quality cultural programme that builds and expands on local strengths and assets and reaches a wide variety of audiences over the course
  • Deliver a programme that uses culture and creativity to lead to lasting social regeneration through building engagement, widening participation, supporting cultural diversity and cohesion, contributing to the localism agenda and reaching out to sectors of the community who are disenfranchised and isolated;
  • Create a demonstrable economic impact from the programme, through investment and innovation in culture and creativity;
  • Demonstrate a clear approach to maximising the legacy and evaluating the impacts from being UK City of Culture;
  • Present realistic and credible plans for managing, funding and delivering the programme and its legacy.

What constitutes 'culture'?

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Little Mix perform in Carlisle. Music is just one of the cultural components City of Culture judges were looking for. Picture: News & StarLittle Mix perform in Carlisle. Music is just one of the cultural components City of Culture judges were looking for. Picture: News & Star

Culture is generally taken to include the following areas: arts (including visual arts, literature, music, theatre and dance), architecture, crafts, creative industries, design, heritage, historic environment, museums and galleries, libraries, archives, film, broadcasting and media.

Having these is a key aspect of winning, however, judges aren't prescriptive about what constitutes culture and it will be up to nominees to make the case for which activities are and are not included in their proposed cultural programme.

Programmes need to be able to appeal to a wide range of audiences and to increase participation in cultural activities as well as contributing to economic growth, regeneration, community cohesion, health and well-being.

When will the winner be announced?

The winning city (or county) is expected to be announced live on BBC One as part of The One Show in the coming weeks.

What would being City of Culture mean for the winner?

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Images projected onto Hull City Hall during the East Yorkshire city's reign as UK City of Culture in 2017. Picture: Wikimedia CommonsImages projected onto Hull City Hall during the East Yorkshire city's reign as UK City of Culture in 2017. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

The effects of this accolade have been transformative for previous winners: between 2011 and 2017, Derry’s overnight hotel occupancy increased by 7 per cent.

In 2017, Hull’s year as UK City of Culture, the city welcomed an estimated 1.3 million more visitors than in 2013, when it submitted its bid.

It also attracted £220m of investment in Hull and created 800 new jobs in the area - with over 130 new businesses starting up during its year as City of Culture.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “Winning the UK City of Culture competition has a hugely positive impact on an area, driving investment, creating jobs, and highlighting that culture is for everyone, regardless of their background."