In 2014, the world’s largest sporting event came to Leeds. The Tour de France Grand Depart was watched at the roadside by crowds of 3.3 million in Yorkshire, with the first race from Leeds to Harrogate watched by approximately 2 million people. Although people came in droves to witness the race, it was the culture and arts that remained one of the most memorable and enduring experiences of the city.
For 100 days, Leeds built a programme of culture, supported in part by the official Yorkshire Festival. From exhibitions, storytelling and street performances, to plays celebrating Beryl Burton, the city’s, and arguably Britain’s, greatest female rider of all time. The programme included a dominant new sculpture from Leeds-born and trained artist Thomas Houseago, and the mesmerising Ghost Peloton from Phoenix Dance and NVA involving a cast of local volunteers.
Leeds welcomed the Tour de France with hospitality and humour. The city’s hotels and independent food and drink businesses provided a warm Yorkshire welcome and the creative arts and culture community came together to turn pop-up spaces into playful exhibitions and socials, dressing the city in official colours.
Spectator hubs were set up around the city bringing crowds of residents from areas where the route didn’t pass, to still join in the activities and experience the historic moment that the Tour de France came to Leeds. Artworks and installations appeared on the streets of the city, lining the route and welcoming visitors at entrances. From banners and bunting to yellow jerseys adorning historic statues and spotted plant pots lining the central reservation, the city proved it knows how to host the world’s sports, culture, arts and media communities.