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LEEDS 2023 launches in style at Left Bank Leeds!

8 people stand on steps inside Left Bank Leeds church. They are smiling and looking excited. There is a stained glass window behind them, and stone columns either side.
Left to right – Mya Craig, Ryan Ristik, David Hamilton, Inder Goldfinger, Kully Thiarai, Jamie Jones Buchanan, Malika Booker, Keira Martin. Photo by Ant Robling.

This week saw the launch of LEEDS 2023 as we unveiled our ambitious plans to set about Letting Culture Loose across the city! To kick things off, our virtual launch event took place at the beautiful Left Bank arts centre in Burley, with a livestream featuring some of the finest creative people from across the city.

A real showcase of the city’s incredible talent

Hosted by BBC Radio Leeds’ Nick Ahad, the event was packed with interviews, live performances and short films of some of our recent creative community projects. It also saw the grand premiere of our launch video, featuring the vocal talents of Hip-Hop MC, theatre maker and beatboxer Testament, outlining Leeds’ rich cultural heritage and the importance of shouting about creativity in all its forms.

Nick Ahad holding some paper notes as he prepares to host the launch. He looks excited.
Nick Ahad. Consummate professional and host extraordinaire.

“There’s just so much going on in our city that – to be honest with you – a year’s not really long enough! But a year is what we’ve got. And in 2023 we’re going to use the whole year to celebrate the awesome creativity that is bursting out of our city.”

– Nick Ahad, BBC Radio Leeds

The event showcased some of the very best creative talent we have to offer, including incredible music performances from R&B singer Mya Craig and tabla drummer Inder Goldfinger, accompanied by founding member of Phoenix Dance, David Hamilton. Internationally renowned artist Keira Martin blended together comedy, dance and spoken word to create something truly unique, and there was a powerful poetry recital from the one and only Malika Booker.

In a series of sit-down conversations we heard from Leeds Rhinos star and LEEDS 2023 trustee Jamie Jones Buchanan, leader of Leeds City Council James Lewis, and our own Executive Director Mark Hollander, as well as our Creative Director and Chief Executive Kully Thiarai, who explained what the initiative will mean for the city.

Mya Craig is standing and singing into a microphone. She has her eyes closed and her hands clasped in front of her as if she's lost in the music.
R&B star and Radio 1 Extra favourite Mya Craig performing live at Left Bank.

To top things off, we also streamed footage of creatives in action across Leeds. Put together by Leeds-based Candour Productions, these mini documentaries featured the photographers of Lens Lab Leeds encouraging the residents of Lincoln Green to have their portraits taken with a Victorian wet-plate camera, Armley-based community arts studio Assembly House teaming up with charity Hookers & Clickers to craft several amazing horse sculptures collaged with knitted artwork, and a look behind-the-scenes at Pyramid of Arts, a collective of artists with and without learning disabilities who have created a new sculpture to be sited in Meanwood. 

“This is a chance for everyone to get involved, play their part and really utilise their creativity in all the extraordinary ways we know it exists across every neighbourhood, every street. Let me tell you – it won’t be something the city will forget in a hurry.”

Kully Thiarai, LEEDS 2023 Creative Director and Chief Executive

Elsewhere on launch day, Mabgate-based Sable Radio ran a special live show with the support of LEEDS 2023. Broadcasting all day from the Eat Your Greens kitchen in the heart of Leeds city centre, the independent non-profit radio station filled the airwaves with music, poetry and chat. 

Making it a year to remember

Backed by the likes of singer-songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae, Kaiser Chiefs’ rhythm bassist Simon Rix and the UK’s poet laureate Simon Armitage, LEEDS 2023 is all about celebrating the very best of culture across every part of the city. This means everything from dance to design, art to architecture, poetry to pop – not to mention food, music, film, drama, photography and sport. As Simon Armitage himself said, “It will be so bright and colourful it will be visible from outer space. It will be the talk of distant galaxies.”

Inder Goldfinger standing and playing the tabla drums with his hands. He is wearing a beautiful pink jumper and a bright pink turban.
Musician Inder Goldfinger on the tabla drums.

Building on the fantastic cultural scene in Leeds, we’re aiming to unlock opportunities for people across the city and beyond to get involved and be part of the celebration. We want to uncover the hidden stories and unsung heroes who make our culturally diverse home the wonderful place it is. With the help of artists and organisations – and the backing of supporters and businesses – we can make the year 2023 a special one for Leeds. The launch event was a great springboard for what’s to come – but we’re only just getting started!

Do you want to be part of LEEDS 2023? You can already get involved as an artist through our live open calls, partner with us as a business or organisation or sign up to our newsletter to stay up to date with our news, events and opportunities.