A NEW business club has been launched to back Southampton's City of Culture bid 2025.

Scores of company representatives and keynote guests joined the virtual event to formally unveil the Gateway Club.

Businesses across the city are being encouraged to join the club as sponsors, patrons or supporters to help raise financial resources for the bid which is seen as a key element in Southampton's recovery from the pandemic and its future economic prosperity.

Bid director Claire Whittaker said the joining the Gateway Club would an upfront investment in the city's future.

See all our stories on Southampton's City of Culture bid

She said: "We have all been really buoyed up by the enthusiasm across Southampton and we are doing our best to win this."

One sign-up announced at the launch on Wednesday was seasonal partner West Quay, an integral part of the city for 20 years.

The popular local retail and leisure destination will create awareness for the bid throughout the summer by hosting a programme of free events and activities for visitors to enjoy, both in the centre and on The Esplanade.

A key aim of the partnership will be to promote everyday culture such as food, retail, cinema, music and public art to centre users, bringing to life the many opportunities that bidding to be UK City of Culture presents.

Westquay manager Laura Read said: “Westquay sits at the heart of Southampton and has always been a place for friends and family to connect. Becoming the UK City of Culture would be a huge achievement for Southampton and an exciting first step as we return to some kind of normal post-lockdown."

One of the high-profile backers of the bid is former culture minister Lord Vaizey who told the launch that big national events would be attracted if Southampton was successful.

Tim Keeping, chairman of Go! Southampton, spoke of the immense economic, social and cultural benefits seen by the 2017 winner, Hull.

He added: "If we are successful it will bring lasting change and evoke pride in a way that has not been seen for generations. It will also help us attract and retain talent."

Benefits of joining the Gateway Club include high level business and hospitality events, access to city leaders and brand awareness.

Southampton's bid is due to be submitted in December with the winner being announced in May 2022.

Commercial director Gemma Nichols said success would put Southampton on the map globally.

Nick Parbutt, boss of fibre broadband company toob, which was the first premier partner sign-up, said Southampton had huge potential "but it doesn't shout about itself enough".