Eleven contenders have put their names forward to become the next UK City of Culture in 2017.
Culture minister Ed Vaizey announced the bids which include Aberdeen, Chester, Dundee, Hastings and Bexhill on Sea, Hull, Leicester, Plymouth, Southend on Sea and a joint application from Portsmouth and Southampton.
There are also applications from East Kent - which covers Ashford, Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone and Thanet - and Swansea Bay, which includes Swansea, Carmarthenshire, Neath and Port Talbot.
Culture minister Ed Vaizey
Mr Vaizey said: "This is fantastic news and shows the appetite for the prestigious City of Culture title is in healthy supply right across the length and breadth of the country.
"The competition brings together communities and creates economic and social benefits and I am pleased to see so many local authorities and different partners coming together. I wish all 11 the best of luck."
The initial bids have to be in by the end of April when they will be examined by an independent advisory panel chaired by television producer Phil Redmond.
The panel will announce a shortlist in June.
Mr Redmond, who played a leading role in Liverpool's time as European City of Culture, said the scheme could be "a real catalyst for change".
He said: "I'm delighted so many places have registered their interest in the competition for 2017. Together with the panel I'm looking forward to receiving some ambitious and dynamic bids that highlight the very best of local cultural talent, along with delivering a realistic programme that will appeal to as wide an audience as possible."
Londonderry was named the first UK City of Culture in 2010.
Hastings Borough Council leader Jeremy Birch said: "This shows the league we believe the Hastings area is becoming part of.
"The Jerwood Gallery has now been open a year and has really helped to change our cultural status.
"We have a culture of festivals and processions to rival anywhere, from Jack in the Green to the bonfire.
"The restoration of Hastings Pier will allow us to relive the culture of promenading of days gone by.
"And most recently we have the public exhibition of the two shortlisted entries for a major public art feature on Pelham roundabout and next weekend the increasingly significant international piano festival.
"Not forgetting, of course, all that is on offer at the De La Warr (Pavilion) just next door in Bexhill.
"The Hastings area is becoming a cultural beacon in the South East and nationally, and we have every justification aiming for the City of Culture status in four years time. This town is on the way up, let the whole country recognise that."