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Creative and cultural skills take centre-stage in year of culture as 6 education institutions throw their weight behind LEEDS 2023

Students representing Leeds’s education institutions backing LEEDS 2023 came together at Leeds Art Gallery to celebrate new partnership. Credit: Ant Robling

In a powerful show of support for the transformational potential of Leeds’s hotly anticipated Year of Culture, six of the city’s higher and further education institutions have joined forces behind LEEDS 2023, cementing Leeds’s fast-growing reputation as one of the best cities in the UK for a creative education. 

The education sector partners include Principal Education Partners Leeds Beckett University and the University of Leeds who will lead the higher education strand of the LEEDS 2023 programme, sharing skills and expertise and engaging students and staff in creative collaborations as the artistic programme is developed and delivered. 

New Gold Partners include Leeds Trinity University; Leeds Arts UniversityNorthern School of Contemporary Dance and Luminate Education Group.

The collaborative backing of these world-renowned institutions, which currently provide learning opportunities for more than 100,000 students combined, comes as a major boost for LEEDS 2023’s ambitions to create hundreds of opportunities, jobs and a legacy for young people studying and working in the city’s creative industries.

Kully Thiarai, Creative Director and CEO of LEEDS 2023 said: “We are all about growing our creative and cultural economy so it can achieve its full potential. Leeds is already one of the best cities to experience arts and culture, but through these partnerships we want to help show that Leeds is also an exceptional city for anyone that wants a creative education.  

“Northern leaders recently came together to launch the ‘Case for Culture’ report which outlined how culture will be the catalyst for levelling up in this region. We certainly see LEEDS 2023 as levelling up in action and playing an instrumental role in the city’s social and economic recovery. We will work with our education partners to create opportunities for those already studying in the city to be part of something that’s one-in-generation, and to attract more young talent to study, work and continue to create here.” 

Leeds Beckett University has had a strong presence in the cultural landscape of Leeds for over 170 years, with noted arts alumni including global music icon Marc Almond, Game of Thrones cinematographer Fabian Wagner and Leeds cultural leader Sharon Watson MBE. Their commitment to arts and culture in the city can be seen in the new £80m Leeds School of Arts building in the heart of the city centre, offering industry standard facilities for hands-on learning across a wide range of arts disciplines including Architecture and Landscape, Creative Technology, Art and Design, Fashion, Music and Sound, Film and Performing Arts.

Professor Peter Slee, Vice Chancellor of Leeds Beckett University said: “We are proud to continue our support for LEEDS 2023 and look forward to participating in this celebration of all forms of culture in the city. Our heritage in arts and culture has seen generations of artists, performers, architects and creators being inspired by their time at Leeds Beckett University and in Leeds. Our current community of over 3000 diverse creators will benefit enormously from the opportunity to add their creative voices to this transformational year of culture.”

Leeds Beckett joins the University of Leeds which was announced as a Principal Education Partner for LEEDS 2023 in May last year. The partnership is being developed and led by the University’s Cultural Institute which brokers and nurtures collaborations between the arts and culture sectors, creative industry sectors, academics and students. The University of Leeds is also involved in a long-term collaborative project with the city council and other stakeholders to realise the vision of its Professor of Poetry, Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, to establish the UK’s National Poetry Centre in Leeds, including a programme building towards the new centre as part of the LEEDS 2023 artistic series of events and activities. 

Simone Buitendijk, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds said: “We are proud be part of this and to share the benefits of our longstanding leadership in arts and culture through this continued partnership with LEEDS 2023, which can also help deliver wider economic and social benefits. 

“The Cultural Institute is connecting our partners with world-leading researchers who are addressing complex global challenges. Our ambitions to create a National Poetry Centre in Leeds are well underway and set to secure the city’s reputation as a centre for poetry excellence for years to come. Community is a crucial part of our 10-year strategy and we recognise the valuable role higher education institutions can play in supporting the arts and cultural sector in Leeds.”

Leeds Trinity University last year launched a new strategic five-year-plan which set out its ambitions to engage and contribute more widely in the Leeds City region and beyond. Its support of LEEDS 2023 will help further these aspirations with the cultural programme set to offer creative activities across all 33 wards of the district.  

Professor Charles Egbu, Vice-Chancellor at Leeds Trinity University, said: “We are extremely proud to be part of a city with such a rich and varied cultural landscape, and this is an incredible opportunity to connect our students and community with a hugely exciting programme of events. As part of this, Leeds Trinity students will have the chance to immerse themselves in the vibrant cultural and community heritage of the city, as well further develop their skills and networks as volunteers or through placement opportunities. This aligns strongly with our mission as a career-led university, with embedded placements or work-based projects at every level of study.”

Leeds Arts University, the only specialist arts university in the North of England has also invested heavily in state-of-the art facilities. In 2019 it extended its Blenheim Walk campus to feature a 230-seat performance auditorium, industry standard film and photography studios and specialist arts research and reference library. 

Professor Simone Wonnacott, Vice-Chancellor of Leeds Arts University, said: “Leeds Arts University are proud to support LEEDS 2023. For over 170 years the University has played an important role in attracting and nurturing creative talent in the city and LEEDS 2023 is an important showcase of why so many students continue to begin their creative careers here. Our students, past and present, are key contributors to arts and culture, and we are delighted to play our part in supporting and engaging with this year-long celebration of culture in Leeds.”  

Northern School of Contemporary Dance, a leading centre for contemporary dance in the UK,   recently featured in a new short film specially commissioned to mark ‘One Year to Go’ until LEEDS 2023. In its 36-year history, the school has developed an international reputation for producing award-winning, world-class artists including Akram Khan, Gary Clarke and Gail Parmel. 

Sharon Watson MBE, CEO and Principal of Northern School of Contemporary Dance, said: “We are thrilled to be supporting and indeed contributing to the planned celebrations for LEEDS 2023. Dance is in the DNA of this city and Northern School of Contemporary Dance was born out of a need to offer talented young creatives in the region the opportunity to excel in their field. We continue to offer our students and communities an inspirational learning experience through cross-cultural partnerships, and look forward to working closely with LEEDS 2023 as we Let Culture Loose

Luminate Education Groupalso a Gold Partner, is one of the most innovative education groups in the country, representing more than 30,000 students across its seven institutions.   

Richard Lee, head of Media and Performance Production at Leeds City College (a member of Luminate Education Group): “Leeds is a city bursting with culture; from show-stopping performances to a plethora of creative crafts. We’re passionate about showcasing the rich and diverse opportunities that the area has to offer. After a difficult few years, we’re more determined than ever to shine a spotlight on the creativity of our communities.”

LEEDS 2023 is also working with Club Member the Grammar School at Leeds, and with the Leeds Cultural Education Partnership (LeedsCEP) which brings together a diverse and growing membership of over 50 organisations from the arts, cultural and education sectors to ensure every child and young person in Leeds has access to high-quality arts and cultural education. 


Image Caption (Left to right): Marielle Reuser, Leeds Beckett University; Laura Sillitoe, University of Leeds; Eric Ebirim Chibuiken, Leeds City College; Mia Windsor, University of Leeds; Hassan Shah, Leeds Beckett University; Zosia Davis, Leeds Arts University; Imogen Wright and George Bishop, Northern School of Contemporary Dance and Zainab Nadeem, Leeds Arts University. Credit Ant Robling.