Meet our City Partner, Southampton City Council

Sandy Hopkins
Sandy Hopkins

We are delighted to have the support of our City Partners, Southampton City Council. We caught up with Chief Executive, Sandy Hopkins, to hear about what Southampton means to her and why Southampton City Council are backing the bid.

What are your links to Southampton?

As Southampton’s unitary authority, we provide over 700 services for the city; from pest control to museums, from bins to home builds, from social care for our most vulnerable residents to economic development - we are involved in it all. I have 3,500 colleagues across a variety professions, trades and backgrounds who deliver these services and we are all extremely passionate about what we do. Our vision for Southampton is that of a city of opportunity. We want to create a healthier, fairer and greener city that is accessible to all. We want those that live, work, and visit to see that Southampton is a vibrant, diverse and sustainable city. Before I was CEO here, I enjoyed all the city had to offer for 20 years as a resident and consumer, and I am delighted to now see all of this from a different angle.

Do you have a Southampton hidden gem or top tip?

Where do I begin? There are so many. Prior to Covid I enjoyed having a cuppa in the café at the Art House, letting my mind wander whilst walking around the Southampton City Art Gallery, seeing great shows at The Mayflower Theatre, enjoying watching Saints play at home, listening to live music in one of our pubs or a delicious meal in the many restaurants across the city. I look forward to all that returning soon. My hidden gem, however, is Tudor House & Gardens, tucked away in our Old Town. There is 800 years’ worth of history there and I enjoy getting an insight into the lives of our residents from so long ago.

What does culture mean for you?

Culture to me is community, inclusion and inspiration. It’s not something that has to happen in the big cultural venues but it’s a spirit of community that lifts you out of yourself and helps you see the bigger picture. It might be an ambitious ballet, but most often it shows up in the smaller daily routines and projects of our local groups, schools, sport centres, and cafes.

Culture means so many different things to each of us (heritage, food, sports, arts, dance, theatre, music, crafts, leisure time, keeping healthy) and it’s an essential part of all our lives, our communities and our wellbeing.

As a local business why have you committed to the bid?

We have committed to the bid because it is time we celebrated all we have on offer in the city, we have all the right ingredients for a winning bid, and now is OUR time. Going for this will allow us to build even more city pride, cement our reputation on the world stage, and create hugely positive social and economic impacts, now critically important following the impact of Covid.

What benefit do you hope to see for your organisation employees or customers?

This bid is all about what it can deliver for all our people. I want it to create a surge in job opportunities in the city, deliver great and colourful events that spark ingenuity and pride, and improve our collective wellbeing. I believe this bid can be the catalyst to improving the quality of life for everyone in the city. Culture gives us a unique sense of collective identity whatever aspect we get involved in. The benefits of sports, arts, food, music, heritage and the outdoor environment are immeasurable for any human being.

How do you think that UK City of Culture will impact Southampton and the wider region long term?

Winning UK City of Culture will really lift the local economy, in both the short and longer term, by attracting new businesses and investment opportunities. When Hull was UK City of Culture in 2017, it added £300 million to their tourism market and up to £17 million gross value added to their local economy. We want to deliver the same here in Southampton, and more.

Would you urge other businesses to back the bid and why?

Absolutely. This is a fantastic opportunity for all business and organisations within the city and wider region. The council has backed the bid through personnel resources and funding, and I am very pleased to see lots of high-profile businesses and organisations also becoming partners, taking advantage of the opportunity to add to their corporate social responsibility agenda and creating excellent brand exposure. There are lots of different opportunities to back the bid, with packages suitable for the small to the large, so I encourage all businesses to take a look at what is on offer.