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Creative consortium led by Kully Thiarai, Creative Director and Chief Executive of Leeds 2023 has been shortlisted for Festival UK* 2022

We’re excited that our new consortium of collaborators has been shortlisted for Festival UK* 2022 R&D project. This is an opportunity for us to channel our different perspectives and ideas, as well as our common values and ambition, into a bold creative response to the times.

Practitioners with backgrounds in arts, science, digital technology and academia, have come together with a shared purpose and the expertise to build a collaborative project that unleashes the imagination of the many, particularly young people, and from communities whose voices are often left unheard.

All of us and the organisations we represent collaborate with independent artists and freelance practitioners. By working together, we want to feed the rich and complex ecosystem that is vital to the survival, growth and creativity of all our communities. Collectively, we have the potential to reach, engage and provide opportunities for communities of all backgrounds and working with the least served in society is an important priority of this consortium.

It’s impossible to know what the world will be like by 2022 but we believe in the power of culture to make positive change and to right social injustices. Young people have lost many opportunities as a result of the pandemic and we want to work together to build an unforgettable creative project for young people in Yorkshire and Belfast, with hope and an optimistic vision.

We’ve witnessed hundreds of the millions of ways that creative expression has brought joy, solace and a sense of community to our lives this year and this is an opportunity to be part of something big, dynamic, human and connected to the world.

The festival is an opportunity to present a more complex and nuanced reflection of our lives. We are interested in challenging existing models and approaches to build more equitable and generous connections.  And we are driven by an urgent need to shape new and hopeful stories that can help bring people together; to celebrate our shared humanity and – ultimately – lead to positive change by using the power that creativity affords us all.

As Leeds prepares for its landmark year of culture in 2023, Belfast too has designated 2023 a year of culture on a scale that has never been seen before. Bradford is bidding to win the City of Culture title in 2025 and York has recently become the first and only UK UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts. Festival UK 2022 is a major milestone in the calendar and an opportunity for all of us to make a difference in the world through imaginative thinking and creative ambition.

The consortium includes teams from seven organisations in Leeds, Bradford, York and Belfast. Led by Leeds 2023, they are:


Leeds 2023
Kully Thiarai, consortium lead and Creative Director/Chief Executive of Leeds 2023
Akeelah Bertram, independent Artist & Creative Director

University of Leeds
Steve Manthorp, Project Manager at the Cultural Institute, University of Leeds
Chris Brown, Senior Project Manager for the Centre for Immersive Technologies, University of Leeds

British Library
Jamie Andrews leads Cultural and Learning Programming at the British Library which is based in both London and the City of Leeds (Boston Spa)


Born in Bradford
Shanaz Gulzar, artist, producer and chair of Bradford City of Culture bid 2025.
Aamnah Rahman, Research Fellow, Born in Bradford
Zulfiqar Ahmed, Director of The Leap


York Mediale
Tom Higham, Creative Director of York Mediale

Pilot Theatre
Esther Richardson, Artistic Director of Pilot Theatre, York


Deepa Mann-Kler, Chief Executive of Belfast-based leading immersive technology company Neon

For more information on Festival UK* 2022 go to:

IMAGE: © Cosmin Serban