Got a question about the Leeds 2023? Chances are someone else wanted to know that too, so here’s our handy list of Frequently Asked Questions.

Any Questions

In November 2017 the decision was taken by the European Commission to cancel the UK competition. Despite the setback Leeds City Council expressed a strong renewal of their commitment to create and deliver a six year £35m cultural investment programme, culminating a year of celebration in 2023.

On 31st January 2018, 700 people gathered at Leeds Town Hall to hear the Council’s resolution to continue with Leeds 2023. The Leader of Council announced a commitment to invest fully in the plans for Leeds 2023 and invited Leeds 2023 Independent Steering Group members, and its Chair Sharon Watson, to remain in place for an additional 12 months to oversee the implementation of revised plans for Leeds 2023.

These are the questions we get asked the most, but if you can’t find what you’re looking for here or want a bit information on something, head over to our Hello page and ask us there.



What is Leeds 2023?

Leeds 2023 is a five-year cultural investment programme culminating in a year of celebration in 2023. Following the shock announcement by the European Commission to withdraw the right for a UK city to host the title of European Capital of Culture 2023, Leeds will harness the energy, creative and momentum created by the bidding process to create its own celebration of the city’s cultural life which will continue to celebrate our international connections and heritage.

What will it include?

The city and its partners aim to build a £35m cultural investment programme over the five years leading up to 2023 which will support a range of projects and ideas delivering on the objectives of the Leeds Culture Strategy and culminating in a year of celebration in 2023. We are able to announce three of those projects:

  • The creation of a new People’s Theatre by Leeds theatre-company Slung Low, expected to undertake its first performance in 2020, with a major outdoor show taking place in 2023.
  • The Yorkshire Sculpture International, a triennial sculpture festival delivered by Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle which includes Leeds Art Gallery, Henry Moore Institute, The Hepworth Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park and is supported by Arts Council England. A pilot festival will take place in 2019 with the first major festival in 2023
  • The proposal by Foxglove to build a full scale lighthouse in the South Bank area was one of the most eye-catching highlights of our original 2023 bid book and we are thrilled to announce that it will still form a key part of our ongoing plans. The lighthouse concept will celebrate the iconic designs of the great Leeds civic engineer John Smeaton and incorporate an international programme of light, sound and design commissions. The project has received in principle funding  from a local business, giving the artists, in partnership with Leeds 2023, the remarkable chance to create a spectacular new cultural focal point for the city.

Over the coming months the team will work with artists, communities and organisations who were involved in the bid process to further develop plans for the year-long celebration.

How were the first three projects chosen?

The three projects announced at the Act II event in January 2018 are not the only ones that will happen. There are a wealth of projects both within and outside the Bid Book which will form part of our plans moving forward.

The Lighthouse Project was proposed as part of the original Bid Book and has captured the imagination of residents and business alike. Although in its very early conceptual stages the idea has also garnered the financial support of a local business ensuring that it can go ahead as an independent project.

Yorkshire Sculpture International Festival was also included in the original bid book and has been able to lever funding from other major partners, including other local authorities and Arts Council England, alongside the backing of Leeds City Council. It will launch the first festival in 2019 with a second planned for 2023.

The Leeds People’s Theatre is a new project to take place in south Leeds. It will be a large scale undertaking and it will offer an opportunity for thousands of local residents to take part, delivering on our Leeds 2023 commitment to be for the whole city.  The Council’s investment is a contribution to funds committed from other partners, from some of the leading arts foundations to Arts Council England.

Will the main artistic programme still focus on the year 2023?

Yes. There will be five-year cultural investment programme leading up to 2023 in order to help the city to be in the best possible position to celebrate its culture, however the main artistic programme focus will still focus on 2023.

Who will pay for it? How much will this cost Leeds tax payers?

Part of the legacy of our bid for the European Capital of Culture title will be to create a £35m cultural investment programme over the next six years culminating in 2023. As part of its commitment to the bid for the title Leeds City Council agreed to invest an additional £12m in culture over this timeframe, which will remain in place. Early conversations with our partners and sponsors indicate that this investment could be trebled with private sector sponsorship and partner contributions for culture in Leeds.

We anticipate attracting further funding contributions from private sector sponsors for other elements of the five-year programme. Two fantastic examples of this are the Arts Council Ambitions for Excellence funding secured by Yorkshire Sculpture International, and the support already agreed in principle for the Leeds Lighthouse from a local business.


How much did the city spend on its original bid for the title?

The amount invested in bidding is just over £700,000.

The council has committed £145,000 towards that, while the private and education sector have supported the bid with a contribution in excess of £650,000.

For every pound invested by the council, £4 worth of private sector investment has also been generated to support the bid and culture in Leeds.

The amount invested by the council equates to less than 30 pence per person in Leeds.

Shouldn’t Leeds City Council be spending that money on vital services?

We believe that all council services are vital, particularly those that support our/the city’s most vulnerable residents and neighbours.  Culture is a vital service in its contribution to this, particularly around issues such as mental health, isolation, and community cohesion. By investing in the cultural life of the city we are also looking after the long term interests of our citizens, and particularly our young people, by striving to create a great place to live with high levels of sustainable employment.

Who will Leeds 2023 benefit now?

One of the greatest strengths of our bid for European Capital of Culture was its commitment to ensuring that the bid would involve, engage and excite the whole city, benefiting people across all 33 wards – we intend to continue this commitment and the people of Leeds will be at the heart of plans for 2023 as they develop.

We will also retain an international focus to the year celebrating our diverse communities and rich history of welcoming people to the city.

Will it still have an international focus?

In addition to working with cities and cultural partners across Europe, which we strengthened through the work on our bid for European Capital of Culture, we will be working with partners across the world. Leeds has the ambition to be a major European and international city and our cultural sector has risen to the challenge of expanding its horizons and developing new links across the world. The end of the European Capital of Culture competition does not change or dilute this ambition in any way.


We will continue to reach out internationally in order to establish Leeds as a leading global capital of culture.

What will happen to the ideas proposed in the original bid book?

This is not the European Capital of Culture. It is Leeds delivering against its cultural ambitions and therefore we must take time to recast our plans and review all associated projects and plans.

The work that has gone into the proposals will not be wasted. The projects are owned by the artists and we know some artists who have already said that they will endeavour to take their projects forward.

We will communicate with all the artists and organisations which put forward proposals for inclusion in the bid and all will be offered an opportunity to resubmit their proposals as plans for the year of celebration of culture develop.

This will take time and we appreciate the hard work and effort that has gone into developing ideas so far.

Who do I speak to if I have an idea for Leeds 2023?

At the moment we are unable to make any firm commitments or offers to projects and artists or to determine what will or won’t be incorporated into the new plans. If you would like to send us any ideas or suggestions in the meantime, you can send ideas and suggestions to hello@leeds2023.co.uk and we will make sure that your proposals are considered when the priorities and criteria have been agreed.

Will there still be an Independent Steering Group?

We will keep the Independent Steering Group in place for at least twelve months to oversee the recasting of our plans. They will continue to draw on the expertise and networks of those who were partners and advisors in the process as our plans take form.

The work of the Advisory Groups has came to a natural close at the beginning of 2018, we would not have got where we are without their support, expertise and guidance. As we recast our plans we will consider how we can retain the support, expertise and energy from our Advisory Groups which were so valuable during our bid.

The bid brought different parts of the Leeds community and cultural sector together. A lot of the energy to get us where we are today came from joining forces by individuals and organisations who committed themselves to making the Leeds bid ambitious and meaningful and we want to keep that energy.

Where can I find out more information about 2023 and the recent announcements?

Over the coming weeks our website, www.leeds2023.co.uk will be refreshed to reflect the changes announced today and we will continue to produce our monthly e-newsletter updates and announcements as they happen.

You can also connect with Leeds 2023 on Twitter @Leeds_2023, Instagram @Leeds2023, or search Leeds 2023 on Facebook.

How can I get involved?

If you have specific questions, views, ideas or comments or would like to support the project, please contact the team so that we can make sure that those queries are considered as part of future plans.

We will keep the communication tools of the website, social media channels and the information e-bulletins in place and welcome an open conversation about how the city can collectively move forward placing culture at the heart of everything we do.

You can contact the team on 0113 37 84420 or at hello@leeds2023.co.uk 

How can businesses get involved?

There will be new opportunities for businesses across the city to partner with us as well as with our cultural venues and artists directly. We are not starting again, we are reconfiguring our plans. Packages are being created to be brokered with a range of partners, including business sponsors. If you wish to join our growing list of supporters, email hello@leeds2023.co.uk.

What happens next?

The team will continue to develop plans for 2023 and the five-year cultural investment programme. This will involve continued discussions with DCMS, artists, communities, partners and stakeholders who helped to shape the bid. They will also consider the ongoing development of a Culture Strategy Delivery Plan and creating a framework for the delivery of the year-long celebration of culture in 2023. Clearly there is much to consider and many questions still to answer.