ABOUT LEEDS 2023
A YEAR OF CULTURE
2023 is going to be a year that changes our extraordinary city forever and for the better. We’re embarking on a year-long celebration of culture, happening all over the city and everybody can be a part of it.
For one whole year (all 365 days, 12 months, and 500,000 minutes of it), this city is letting culture loose. We’re gonna create, make, perform, run, bake, eat, share, sing, speak, play and more besides.
Because culture is everywhere in this city.
So now is the time to shout about creativity, in all its forms, in all our communities, and be part of it, and use it to bring us all together again, on every street, in every part of the city. Because when this city speaks, we have a proper story to tell.
This is LEEDS 2023 and we need you. So get involved, be part of it and help us… Let. Culture. Loose.
A Year of Culture
2023 will be a transformational year like no other. 12 signature events and a multitude of creative experiences are happening all over our city. From dance to design, art to architecture, poetry to pop, sculpture to sport, grassroots community theatre to performances on our world-class stages, there’s something for everyone, no matter where you live or what you like.
We think culture is everywhere in this city and this is our time to shout about it. We’re working with local, national and international artists and communities to create a celebration that’s for Leeds, with Leeds and inspired by Leeds.
LEEDS 2023 will be an explosion of colour, noise and brilliance that will show the world in our city and our city to the world.
Why it’s happening
Our journey began in 2015 when the city originally decided to bid to be European Capital of Culture in 2023. After a lot of hard work across the city, hopes were dashed at the last minute when UK cities were banned from entering following the country’s vote to leave the EU. But that wasn’t going to stop us. With cross-party support, the backing of more than 20 local businesses and a public poll in the Yorkshire Evening Post, the city collectively said, “Let’s do it anyway!”
With the commitment of Leeds City Council, our mission is to deliver a transformational year of creative experiences that will bring us together and change Leeds forever and for the better.
Who it’s for
LEEDS 2023 is for everyone. Creative events are going to take place all over the city, in every district, for everybody. Culture is everywhere in this city and it can actually change people’s lives so we want to celebrate it, in all its forms, in all our communities. And you’re all invited to be a part of it.
What it means for Leeds
We hope that 2023 will be a year that changes Leeds forever and for the better. Not only do we want this year to put Leeds firmly on the cultural map of the world, we want to drive a creative recovery – both economically and socially – for our communities.
It’s going to be the city’s greatest cultural celebration in a generation and we hope people will feel the benefits now and in the many years to come.
The Team/The Board
The people behind the scenes
Kully has spent her 30+ year career changing systems and structures in the arts world that are barriers to inclusion including pioneering the ways that theatres involve young people and taking performances to spaces that could be more easily accessible by the public.
The former artistic director of National Theatre Wales and the first artistic director of Cast at Doncaster knows Leeds well, she was artistic director of Leeds theatre company Red Ladder and launched the Transform festival at Leeds Playhouse.
In 2020, Kully won the inaugural Cultural Icon category of the Northern Asian Power List.
Mark first came to Yorkshire in the early 80s to train in Theatre Arts at the University of Leeds’ Bretton Hall, and has now worked in Leeds for 20 years.
Before returning to the city, Mark’s work spanned 15 years as an actor and director in theatre and performing arts with close links to the Liverpool Theatres, and working nationally and internationally including projects in Sri Lanka, Turkey and Spain. He was also co-director of the Liverpool Everyman Theatre with 300 members from across Liverpool’s diverse communities. Mark then branched out into live radio as a news and current affairs Studio Manager at the BBC World Service. His career in Yorkshire has included as Theatre Officer with Arts Council England where he implemented the Theatre Review for the Yorkshire Region, worked on strategic initiatives including combatting institutional racism in theatre and moved on to become Acting Head of Performing Arts and then Senior Manager, Funding Programmes delivering major grants schemes and maintaining a strategic overview of the Arts Capital Programme in the North.
As a freelance arts consultant Mark became Executive Director for the national and international touring company Unlimited Theatre in Leeds and then Executive Director for the acclaimed Phoenix Dance Theatre working in tandem with award winning Artistic Director Sharon Watson.
Mark has built close working relationships with most of the major arts organisations in Leeds and Yorkshire as well as supporting a great many small and medium sized organisations and individual artists.
Abigail Scott Paul
Abigail Scott Paul
Abigail is a strategic communications expert. Prior to joining Leeds 2023, she spent over a decade at the social change organisation the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) leading its public engagement, grassroots and digital transformation strategy.
Abigail’s work there was focused on telling a new story about people and places trapped in poverty, in order to shift public attitudes and build support for change. She commissioned and led JRF’s award winning Talking about Poverty programme and also designed JRF’s approach to storytelling: moving beyond the traditional ‘case-study’ approach to collaborate and co-produce alongside poverty campaigners and grassroots activists.
Raised in Yorkshire, Abigail recently commissioned the photography exhibition Picture Britain with JRF and Comic Relief, and she has also worked with the Leeds Poverty Truth Commission on Fighting Shame, a documentary commissioned by Guardian Films. She was co-producer on Sean McAllister’s critically acclaimed BBC2 documentary ‘A Northern Soul’ which was filmed in Hull during its year of culture in 2017.
Prior to JRF, Abigail worked in the field of architecture, first as Head of Press at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) where she helped to launch the Stirling Prize on Channel 4, and then in Melbourne, Australia working for Denton Corker Marshall, the architects of the Stonehenge Visitor Centre and the Manchester Civil Justice Centre.
In 2020 she was recognised for her contribution to charity campaigning in the Outstanding Leadership Category of the Sheila McKechnie National Campaigner Awards.
Emma is a Producer and Programmer who has made and presented award-winning artworks in a range of contexts, including the Royal Court Theatre and British Council Showcase, pubs, clubs, cafes and derelict storage units.
Emma was part of the team who developed the original programme for what was set to be Leeds’ bid for European Capital of Culture 2023, before UK based bids were discontinued in light of Brexit. As our Executive Producer, Emma will lead the delivery of an exciting range of new artistic commissions, co-productions, collaborations and events in the lead up to and during Leeds 2023 Year of Culture.
Prior to joining Leeds 2023, Emma was Co-Director at East Street Arts focusing on public programming, international strategy and business development. Before her work at ESA, Emma was the founding producer for Selina Thompson Ltd and Executive Producer for Eclipse Theatre Company. An alumnus of Generate with British Council USA, the IETM Campus and the National Theatre’s Step Change programme, Emma is also part of the Advisory Board for Theatre in the Mill and a Trustee at Hull Truck Theatre.
Taneesha joined Leeds 2023 as Producer for Community, Collaborations and Partnerships, bringing with her a wide range of experience in community engagement and participation.
Taneesha graduated with a First-Class Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art from the University of Leeds before going on to complete a Masters in Curating from Chelsea College of Art and Design.
With over twelve years’ experience in the visual arts sector, she has a proven track record of collaborating with communities. Previously she has worked as the Head of Participation at The Tetley and has extensive experience in programming and supporting the region’s cultural sector and creative community. Prior to her work at The Tetley, she was the Education Officer at Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool Council’s Arts Service where she planned a participation strategy that was central to the successful Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation bid in 2018.
Kathryn Welford joined Leeds 2023 as our Children and Young People’s Partnership Manager, a role that is part of a partnership that we have formed with Leeds Cultural Education Partnership to ensure that children and young people are at the heart of our landmark year of culture.
With more than 20 years’ experience in delivering learning programmes for arts and heritage organisations, Kathryn is an expert in the field of cultural and creative learning. An artist-turned-educator, Kathryn combines creativity with her knowledge of pedagogy to create inspired, creative learning opportunities, driven by a commitment to social mobility, equality of opportunity and access to culture.
Kathryn joins Leeds 2023 following two years at Harewood House Trust where she worked as Learning Manager, developing an Early Years programme as well as working with specialist artists around play and outdoor learning. She has also worked as Formal Learning Coordinator at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and was part of the original team at The Tetley.
Aimee grew up in Leeds where she was involved in Leeds Junior String Orchestra, Opera North children’s chorus and Leeds Youth Opera. She studied performing arts at Harrogate College and then Musical Theatre at degree level. Having volunteered for Chicken Shed Theatre Company’s inclusive theatre project in Tower Hamlets, East London, she began her arts fundraising career following an internship at the Donmar Warehouse theatre in Covent Garden, where she became Development Administrator and later Development Officer. She then worked as Development Campaigns Manager at the Roundhouse, Camden; Individual Giving Manager at the National Theatre; and Head of Leadership Giving at the British Museum. As Deputy Development Director at the Almeida Theatre in Islington, she managed the team across all income streams as well as being responsible for securing and stewarding corporate support. After a period as a freelance consultant, including for Theatre Royal Stratford East, as well as training as a yoga teacher, Aimee relocated back to Leeds.
Hannah, Fundraising Officer for Leeds 2023 has over ten years of arts fundraising experience, which began at Northern Ballet in Leeds. As Individual Giving Manager, she worked on both the capital campaign to relocate the company to its new purpose-built city centre location as well as revenue fundraising towards the creation of new ballets and their national tour.
In 2012 she became part of a new team at The Hepworth Wakefield, responsible for devising and implementing the gallery’s fundraising strategy to generate significant income, across all funding streams, towards the gallery’s ambitious contemporary exhibitions programme and community engagement.
Hannah is a graduate of Leeds Beckett University where she studied Events Management, Sponsorship and Fundraising.
Joining Leeds 2023 as a Fundraising Officer, Erin brings with her a strong understanding of the Leeds third sector as well as fundraising and philanthropy development experience.
After graduating from the University of Birmingham with a degree in Political Science, Erin began working as a Grants Administrator at Leeds Community Foundation where she gained a strong understanding of the Leeds third sector landscape. She then took the role of Development Officer at the Foundation where she worked with business, public, trust and foundation and individual donors to support their philanthropy and benefit communities across Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield. Erin was promoted to Senior Development Officer and took the lead on a number of donor relationships.
In 2020/21 Erin completed the Beyond Suffrage trustee training programme for young women from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. She has worked in the third sector for nearly four years and hopes that by being a trustee she will be able to use her skills and experience to support an organisation whilst gaining a new insight into the way the sector operates.
Claire’s background is in brand development and marketing, and she worked as Head of Marketing at Eurostar before joining London 2012 as Head of Marketing- Culture where she oversaw all the marketing and brand activity for the London 2012 Festival as part of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. More recently Claire worked as Head of Communications and Learning for The Space, a digital capacity building agency founded by the BBC and Arts Council England for UK based cultural organisations and artists, supporting them in finding new audiences through digital experiences and online platforms. Brought up in Huddersfield with spells in France, Germany and then London, Claire moved back to Leeds in 2017 and oversees our brand and marketing work and is passionate about culture in its widest sense, from live music to food festivals and football.
Alex Monk, Social Media and Content Officer for LEEDS 2023, has worked in Yorkshire since graduating from University of Leeds in 2012.
Alex joins us from Harrogate Theatre where he was Marketing and Development Officer for two years. Prior to that he was Co-Founder and General Manager for Manic Chord Theatre, a touring company based at Slung Low’s HUB and Temple Works. During this time Alex Produced a number of national tours, Edinburgh Fringe runs and Yorkshire wide education initiatives.
Alex has a love for independent food and drink in Leeds, having worked across the industry for North Brew Co, Gron Kafe, Rabbit Hole Coffee and at The Tetley Bar & Kitchen.
Alex is thrilled to join the team at LEEDS 2023.
A qualified Chartered Management Accountant, Helen is an experienced arts and charity finance professional having headed up the finance function at Leeds Playhouse for 10 years. She joins the Leeds 2023 team as Head of Finance and Operations.
Helen is also currently the Finance Director of Pilot Theatre and a Director and Honorary Treasurer of Yorkshire and Humber Visual Arts Network. Prior to her current work, Helen has held the lead finance role at Birmingham Rep, The Tetley in Leeds and Theatre Royal Wakefield. She graduated from Leeds University with a degree in French and Russian.
Jo Hawkes, Executive Assistant for Leeds 2023, has worked in arts administration for over 20 years. Having started her career working in production and post-production roles in television, she transferred her skills to theatre. She was Head of Administration and Assistant to the Executive Director at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, covered as Finance Manager for The Gate Theatre in Notting Hill, worked as a producer for The Big House Theatre Company and prior to working for Leeds 2023 was General Manager for the theatre department at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
Jo studied at the University of Hull and is delighted to make the return from the capital to Yorkshire to work for Leeds 2023.
Moving to Leeds in 2017 to pursue his passion for music, Oliver has a deep interest in the transformative power of cultural experiences. Having been awarded the Diana Champion Fundraiser Award for his exceptional leadership whilst fundraising for the Christie, he developed his talent for event management and administration by taking on the role of Assistant Festival Manager of Oxjam Leeds Festival. In this position, Oliver orchestrated and delivered a multi-venue weekend-long festival as part of a team of five, managing the day-to-day administration and handling venue arrangements and artist liaison. He has also volunteered for the Manchester Jazz Festival, as a key member of the Artist Liaison Team, and for the Manchester International Festival, welcoming and aiding guests from all over the world.
Oliver graduated with a First-Class Bachelor’s Degree in Music (Jazz) from Leeds Conservatoire and performs regularly in the region. He is enthusiastic about making the power that culture holds accessible to all, particularly in digital spaces.
Ruth has a wealth of experience across the media and cultural landscape and helped to shape Leeds City Region’s successful bid to be the home of Channel 4’s new National HQ.
A journalist and documentary maker by background, Ruth runs mentoring networks that help develop next generation talent for the creative industries and is also the Director of the Creative Cities Convention and a trustee of Leeds Playhouse.
Sharon Watson MBE DL
Sharon Watson MBE DL
May 2020 appointed CEO and Principal of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance. Prior to, Sharon Watson was the 7th and longest-standing Artistic Director of Phoenix Dance Theatre. Trained at the London School of Contemporary Dance, she was one of the first female Principal Dancers invited to join the all-male award winning Phoenix Dance Company, touring with the company from 1989 to 1997 where she choreographed Never Still and Shaded Limits. Having left Phoenix to pursue a number of other ventures including setting up her own company ABCD, Sharon returned in 2009 as the new Artistic Director. Since then Sharon has choreographed Fast Lane, Melt, Never 2 Still, Repetition of Change, TearFall and Windrush: Movement of the People.
During her tenure at Phoenix Dance Theatre, Sharon has received a number of awards and accolades: In 2010, she was named as one of the Cultural Leadership Programme’s ‘Women to Watch’, a list of 50 influential women working in arts and culture in the UK. She was awarded The Sue Ryder ‘Yorkshire Women of Achievement in Business Award’ and named ‘Yorkshire Woman of the Year’ in 2016. She recently received the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts’ Companionship Award from Sir Paul McCartney and was recognised as one of ‘100 faces of a vibrant economy 2017’ by Grant Thornton. Acknowledged at the 2017 Northern Power Women Awards as part of the very first ‘Top 50 Power List’ and in 2018 Sharon won the First English Woman’s Award for Arts and Culture and was presented with an Honorary Fellowship by Northern School of Contemporary Dance. In July of 2019 Sharon received an Honorary Doctorate from Leeds Beckett University for her contribution to the arts. Sharon’s recognitions are testament to her continued passion and drive to contribute to the local and national creative industries through the medium of dance.
November 2020, Appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of West Yorkshire.
Sharon is a trustee of Leeds Playhouse and Leeds 2023. She is committed to improving diversity within the arts by supporting the creative voices of women and Black, Asian and ethnic minority artists.
As owner and Creative Director of Thompson Brand Partners for 35 years, Ian worked for organisations like Morrisons, Confused.com, Paul Smith, London 2012 and The Tour de France.
He moved on from his business in late 2018 to develop his interest in film making and is currently working on a documentary series about male dancing and his love of Northern Soul.
Barbara Woroncow OBE
Barbara Woroncow OBE
Barbara was Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Museums Council for 16 years. A Past President of the UK Museums Association, she was awarded an OBE in 2000 for services to museums.
Consultancy work followed for UNESCO and others in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus, especially in change management and governance.
Born and raised in Chapeltown, Sanchez has represented Leeds in many capacities.
A former professional football player, Sanchez has played for both Leeds City Boys and Leeds United. Recently, Sanchez has moved on to work in the media and hosts his own show “Backstage” on Wednesdays on BBC Radio Leeds.
Sanchez has been involved in Leeds 2023 since the beginning as a member of the young people’s group Think Leeds 2023.
Frank Finlay has been Professor of German at the University of Leeds since 1999. He is recognised as a distinguished scholar in his field, with teaching and research interests in German literature and culture.
He is Director of the University’s Cultural Institute which he set up to promote collaborations between academics, students, and the arts and culture and creative industries sectors.
He takes up a new University role as Dean of Cultural Engagement in January 2020. Frank is Chair of the Board of Trustees for a number of arts organisations and is a keen amateur musician.
Jamie Jones Buchanan
Jamie Jones Buchanan
Born and raised in Bramley, Jamie is an ex professional rugby league player who has represented the city through the Leeds Rhinos for over 20 years. Jamie played his entire professional career with the Rhinos winning six Super League Grand Finals, three World Club Challenges, three League Leaders’ Shields and one Challenge Cup Final.
Jamie is dedicated to inspiring more Leeds communities, he a trustee of Leeds Rhino’s Foundation and Red Ladder Theatre Company.
Sharon is a chartered accountant who has lived, studied and worked in Leeds for 27 years.
She was a member of the Community Engagement Group for Leeds 2023 before becoming a trustee. In her spare time, Sharon is a viola player, performing with orchestras and chamber groups.
Councillor Dan Cohen
Councillor Dan Cohen
Councillor Dan Cohen, born in Alwoodley and elected to represent the Alwoodley ward in May 2011, is a Conservative city councillor. As Shadow Cabinet Member for Leisure, Culture & Skills, Councillor Cohen plays an active role in supporting the city’s cultural ambitions.
With a long-term interest in education, he is keen see young people involved in ideas for the city’s cultural development. He is a school governor for several schools within Alwoodley, including the Jewish Free School. Being part of the Jewish community himself, he frequently delivers talks to classes about celebrating difference and what it means to be both part of the Jewish community and the councillor community. Councillor Cohen was a member of the former Leeds 2023 Independent Steering Group.
Sue Hoyle OBE
Sue Hoyle OBE
Sue Hoyle OBE is a consultant and adviser, specialising in arts and leadership. She is a Cultural Fellow of King’s College London and Lay Commissioner for the Judicial Appointments Commission.
Previous roles have included Director of Clore Leadership, Executive Director of The Place and Deputy Secretary General of Arts Council England
Keith Arrowsmith is a solicitor providing charity law and governance advice. He qualified in 1995, and has since then been helping not for profit organisations and individuals who are active in the cultural, creative, heritage, educational and media sectors.
He is the Head of Legal for Counterculture Partnership. He provides guidance and assistance on governance, intellectual property, business law, contracts, website regulations and charity law.
Keith is a Governance Associate for the Clore Leadership Programme. Has been an Independent Advisory Board member for Screen Yorkshire, Company Secretary for the Children’s Media Conference, and a board member of Creative and Cultural Industries.
Keith was recommended in the independent publication Legal 500 in 2019 and 2020.