One of the key challenges and opportunities of the bid will be to explore and articulate how connected we are as a city to Europe and the wider international community.
Leeds has a strong track record of working internationally e.g. in South Africa, China and specific cities in Europe, such as Lille, Dortmund and Brno, but culturally needs to engage more with European networks and extend beyond its twin cities. We should explore and celebrate the international links of our artists, arts companies, universities, cultural producers and businesses.
“Leeds has got more international cultural activity than many other cities but it has never consciously and strategically promoted it. The city has plenty of European links which are developed by individual organisations but not necessarily shared by our institutions as part of a strategy to promote the city.”
Prof. Franco Bianchini, Leeds Beckett University
The true extent of the city’s European cultural connections has never been mapped but we are anecdotally aware of a number of organisations who repeatedly tour work to Europe, host European work and artists in Leeds, receive EU funding and advocate on behalf of the city in this arena. Based on this evidence which was uncovered from the conversations over the last twelve months we believe that our European connections are more extensive than they might first appear, but that we aren’t capitalising on these connections to build profile and reputation in this space.
The cultural sector in Leeds is adept at securing European funding for culture and arts projects, while the city council has a track record of securing ERDF and RGF funds for economic development. Taking these two strengths together we can generate new opportunities to overcome the city’s overall lack of profile at European level and boost support for the existing cultural offer while budgets are strained.