Is There Any Choicebut Liverpool for Britain's Capital of Culture?; Major Bidders for the European Capital of Culture 2008 Will Be Liverpool, Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff and Newcastle. Leading Journalists from Each City Plead Their Cases

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Why Liverpool? Peter Elson, Daily Post, Liverpool

THAT Liverpool is indisputably the world capital of comedy should not disqualify if from being European Capital of Culture. We have so much culture that we've had to export it worldwide, such is the generosity of our nature.

By nature Liverpool likes pairs: two cathedrals, two premiership football clubs, two universities, two Mersey tunnels, two Liver Birds (Polly James and Nerys Hughes). Soon we'll have two department stores called Lewis's, with the renaming of George Henry Lee's.

Liverpool is used to capital status, being unofficial capital of both Ireland and Wales, plus Guinness Book of Records official World Pop-Music Capital.

As a magnificent port and former second city of our once great Empire, Liverpool offers culture and multi-culturalism. Liverpool built Britain's first mosque in 1880, it has Europe's oldest Chinese community, a Jewish community dating from 1740 and Britain's first black mayor was born here in 1863.

With Liverpool's trading tentacles encompassing the globe, we've always been culturally receptive. The US rock and roll records brought back on the Cunarders inspired the Beatles and countless others, evolving into the city's own Merseybeat. While they shook the world, the Beatles songs propelled ordinary suburban locales like Penny Lane into musical legend.

Any unlikely entertainment shortage can be plugged by the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, the only one of its kind in the world. LIPA forms part of the 50,000 university, college and further education student population.

If you've heard the late Arthur Askey and the present Doddy, Tarby, Dame Beryl Bainbridge, Alan Bleasdale, Carla Lane, Roger McGough and Jimmy McGovern over the airwaves then that's thanks to Sir Oliver Lodge, of Liverpool University. For it was he, not Marconi, who invented the radio.

Shallow we're not, with nine Nobel prizewinners to the city's credit.

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Walker Art Gallery, Tate Gallery, Merseyside Maritime Museum and five theatres attest to the vibrancy of the established arts scene. The Conservation Centre for art is internationally unsurpassed. Volunteer conservationists have restored Britain's second largest Palm House, a giant breast-shaped glass fantasy in Sefton Park.

Liverpool Metropolitan RC Cathedral is the only piece of 1960s architecture anyone likes anywhere, and the Anglican Liverpool Cathedral is one of the world's largest churches. Its organ is the largest, a boast often echoed around the city's fine art nouveau hostelries.

LIVERPOOL'S love of football is indicated by 65,000 people visiting to the city's football stadia. The city also hosts that world-renowned horse race the Grand National and Merseyside is home to six of the best international golf courses.

Our matchless townscape now forms the biggest concentration of listed buildings (and I don't mean listed for demolition) outside London. St George's Hall is arguably Europe's greatest neo-classical building, and art deco masterpieces like the Philharmonic Hall and India Buildings outshine anything in Manhattan or Chicago. We also are blessed with more public sculpture than anywhere outside London.

This legacy makes the city Britain's most popular location for filming. We also have the country's largest independent TV production company, Mersey Television.

Do we care? Yes, we're the most caring city in Britain with a huge voluntary network of helpers serving the needy, founded by Liverpool's leading philanthropic families such as the Rathbones and Roscoes.

Anyone who had a heart, as one of our premier philosophers and singer-presenters, Cilla Black, once extolled, would surely realise that the title belongs to Liverpool.

Why Belfast? Ian Hill, Belfast News Letter

BELFAST'S bid is to be welcomed. …