We have been on this incredible journey for three wonderful years. It has been an honour and privilege to have served as Chair of the Leeds 2023 Independent Steering Group for that time.
Following a city wide consultation in 2014, it was clear that citizens of Leeds wanted us to shout about our city and show the rest of the world what we have to offer. You asked us to be ambitious, bold and unapologetic. You asked us transform Leeds into a Capital of Culture.
When the ISG was originally formed and we created our advisory groups to help guide this work, we had no idea what was ahead of us, or what we were about to achieve.
In bidding to be a Capital of Culture (European or otherwise) in 2023, we have encouraged a new level of ambition to put culture at the heart of everything that we do and have seen outstanding transformation because of that. We have:
- Repositioned ourselves nationally and internationally, participating in projects and networks from all around the world. 150 new artistic partnerships have been made with cities and towns in Europe and internationally from France to Hungary, Germany to Estonia, China to Brazil;
- Celebrated and connected the cultures of all our communities. Through our theme ‘weaving us together’, the Leeds 2023 programme ideas gave a voice to people and artists from across the city, empowering us to share, experience and celebrate all our cultures;
- Emboldened, strengthened and reinvigorated our cultural and creative sectors, as can be evidenced by the £1 million a year growth in ACE funding from 2019 and Channel 4’s recent decision to move their headquarters to Leeds;
- Provided more opportunities for young people to be creative by creating a new Leeds Curriculum aimed at integrating arts and cultural themes into national curriculum. Leeds 2023 also attracted new funds to support school links in Europe via the PACE programme;
- Galvanised the public, private and third sectors to support our mission to be a European Capital of Culture. A unique coalition of cultural organisations, business, communities, educational institutions and political representatives came together with a shared commitment to transformational cultural development. It is because of this support that we could continue with our plans for Leeds 2023 and why we have had so many successes. It is also why Leeds 2023 recently won the prestigious EUROCITIES award for cooperation.
And the best part is, there’s still more to come.
Leeds 2023 is thriving. We have set up an independent company under a new Chair, Ruth Pitt, to continue this journey.
The role of the new company Leeds 2023 Trust, will not be to replace the great work Leeds 2023 has already achieved, but to build on its strengths and take the city and its people onwards to the next stage.
But for me, it is time for me to say goodbye as Chair of the Leeds 2023 Independent Steering Group.
All of this great work could have not been achieved without the passion, energy and commitment of this great city. I would therefore like to thank:
- My colleagues on the Leeds 2023 Independent Steering Group;
- Each member of all our Advisory Groups;
- Partners who have worked with us and have sponsored Leeds 2023 for their commitment to city-wide transformation;
- Our volunteers;
- The cultural sector for embracing this opportunity and working with us to achieve our ambition;
- Leeds City Council for their commitment to Leeds 2023, even in the face of the European Commission’s decision to discontinue the European Capital of Culture competition in the UK.
Finally, I would like to thank you, the citizens of Leeds for challenging us to be the best we can be, for your passion, enthusiasm and for your faith in us.
I am looking forward to seeing what the next five years will bring as a new chapter begins, authored by Ruth Pitt, the Chair of the new Leeds 2023 Trust.
Thank you Leeds,