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Leeds 2023 invests in artists’ projects, as landmark year of culture begins to take shape

Work is underway for Leeds’ landmark year of culture with at least six projects already preparing for Leeds 2023.

Research and development grants have been awarded by Leeds 2023 to local artists and organisations, despite the disruption of Covid-19, and signals a renewed energy to deliver a transformational year of creative experiences across the city and region.

Each project supported by Leeds 2023 R&D Challenge Fund has been selected for its potential to be part of the year-long programme that will showcase creativity across all forms of culture. Creative ideas are being tried and tested with local communities in the neighbourhoods of Armley, Gipton, Harehills, Holbeck.

Leeds 2023 is committed to playing its role in the city’s recovery from COVID-19, ensuring the hidden stories and heritage of the city’s diverse communities are revealed, amplified and celebrated. Creative Director and Chief Executive of Leeds 2023

Kully Thiarai commented:

“Our ambition is for creativity to fuel opportunities for everyone to thrive in our great city. We want to connect with everyone and every part of our city to showcase the creative talent of our communities and our artists. Building towards a year-long event of the scale and ambition of Leeds 2023 will take time, and it’s fantastic to see these projects begin to grow and take shape, when they could so easily have been derailed by the pandemic.

“I can’t think of a time when it was more important to be reminded of the power of the arts, culture and creativity to help connect people. Culture binds us together, has the power to transform lives, and offer hope for a better future which is why it’s important that we continue to support our artists and organisations to develop their ideas and relationships with local people.”

The six projects are:

Leeds People’s Theatre by Slung Low

Slung Low’s long-term ambition is to create a Leeds People’s Theatre (LPT); creating epic community-driven, accessible theatre on a regular basis in the city with both story and spectacle at its heart. In partnership with Leeds 2023, the team intends to successfully combine a high-level creative process, creating new connections with community organisations and developing a participatory programme of alternative events in Leeds. The first project created by LPT was the short film ‘The Good Book’, released in May 2020 and featuring a predominantly community cast from the city.

Music Directory and Launchpad by Music:Leeds

Music:Leeds intend to demonstrate how Leeds is the most exciting city for music in the UK and to make music in Leeds more accessible and inclusive. Through the creation of a comprehensive Directory that will build a local network and highlight opportunities, their Launchpad will create support for emerging artists and early career music professionals to access mentoring, live performance opportunities and funded project support. Music:Leeds plans to help define an inclusive narrative of what music in Leeds means, addressing its shared and diverse heritage and under told stories.

Pavilion by East Leeds Project

A chronic absence of ‘maker spaces’ in east Leeds is the starting point for this project, led by creative practitioners Kerry Harker (Project Space Leeds, The Tetley) and Claire Irving (Shine, Leeds Visual Arts Forum) of the East Leeds Project [ELP]. Working with local architects Bauman Lyons, and local residents, they are co-producing research and development for the ‘East Leeds Pavilion’, the first ever Maker Space for East Leeds, to be located in Gipton.

Smeaton 300 by Foxglove

Foxglove is uncovering the incredible story of Leeds born, world-changing engineer, John Smeaton. Smeaton300 will be a rediscovery of John Smeaton’s achievements celebrating the engineer who described himself as an artist. Ideas are being developed to celebrate his achievements and legacy, as manifested in bridges, lighthouses, waterways & windmills in Leeds and beyond. Smeaton 300 is a Leeds tale with global reach and will appeal to curious minds of all ages and all interests.

The Bus Pass Project by The Performance Ensemble

The Bus Pass Project is a 4-year city wide programme that places older people of Leeds at its heart. The Performance Ensemble is a company of artists, all aged over 60 and drawn from diverse communities across Leeds. Its core group of 35 performers is growing into a 1,000-strong ensemble for the delivery of a spectacular city-wide event for 2023, rooted in authentic stories from the lives of the ensemble and co-created with older artists from Leeds and across the world.

Live Little Stories For Leeds by tutti frutti, Wrongsemble, Unlimited Theatre, 154 Collective, Blah Blah Blahs, Alive & Kicking, Interplay, Fidget Theatre and Slung Low

A joint project between nine of the city’s theatre companies Live Little Stories for Leeds is a direct response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Live Little Stories was established to help children re-connect with live cultural experiences through a series of socially distanced performances taking place across the city in July, with support from Leeds 2023, as part of a plan to create a lasting legacy for the city’s children.

Other projects are also in development and we will be releasing more details about these in the coming months.


IMAGE: L-R top row, The Performance Ensemble, Fidget Theatre, Slung Low. L-R bottom row, East Leeds Project, Music Leeds