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Leeds Discovery Centre - Leeds Museums and Galleries

LEEDS 2023 has been awarded £380,000 from the National Heritage Lottery Fund to develop creative projects showcasing the history and stories of Leeds’ communities and its people.  

The grant was awarded to Leeds Culture Trust, the charitable organisation behind LEEDS 2023, which made the case for the funding to support creative projects that are rooted in Leeds’ diverse and varied heritage. 

LEEDS 2023 has received the initial support* from The National Lottery Heritage Fund for the hidden stories project, made possible by National Lottery players. The Development Funding of £380,000 will help LEEDS 2023 progress its plans to apply for a full National Lottery grant at a later date.

Whether it’s the City’s great innovators like self-taught civil engineer John Smeaton, its city parks or the undiscovered histories of Leeds’ communities, Leeds’ eclectic heritage will be front and centre throughout LEEDS 2023, encompassing and celebrating natural and industrial heritage as well as its cultural and grass roots elements. Major events throughout the year will attract visitors to experience Leeds in a new way, and local residents will see their own stories brought to life across the city. 

Working with local heritage organisations, the LEEDS 2023 team will seek to unearth hidden stories and develop creative ideas around them.  These stories will then provide a unique Leeds perspective as preparations for the landmark year of culture continue apace.

LEEDS 2023 Creative Director, Kully Thiarai, said: “We are obviously delighted to have been awarded the first phase of funding for this crucial element of programme development for LEEDS 2023. We believe that by celebrating and discovering our own heritage alongside others, we can develop positive meanings and identities for a better future. Thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, this gives us a very strong platform from which to move forward and to showcase Leeds’ heritage.

“This initial funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund also helps to expand the boundaries of what heritage actually means for us all. When people think of heritage, the focus is usually on old buildings, historic houses, or artifacts, and that is important of course. But we are also wanting to demonstrate that heritage is about lives lived, shared experiences and stories that should be heard and passed down to the new generations.”

The successful bid was strengthened by independent audience research conducted on behalf of LEEDS 2023. Early findings show that 70 per cent of those questioned agreed that cultural and creative activities were good for the local economy, 79 per cent were supportive of Leeds having a year-long celebration of culture, with 75 per cent feeling it is important to learn about the history and heritage of Leeds. The full research report will be published later this year.

With planning on several projects already well under way, the grant money will enable LEEDS 2023 to reach further into the communities and make the celebrations as relevant and accessible as possible. Heritage and the arts, as well as sport and communities, food, and even shopping, will all be represented in the evolving programme. 

Kully concludes: “We want to weave Leeds’ stories together, with all their complexities, to enable us to create diverse experiences over the year to help people understand and shout about who we are. The exciting plans for 2023 will be a foundation for positioning heritage as a force for good in Leeds and the wider area. We’ll engage residents and communities from start to finish in those stories and amplify them. 

“Every LEEDS 2023 project will have its roots in heritage. We fundamentally believe that there is not just one Leeds story, there isn’t a single strapline for Leeds which wouldn’t constrict some of us, even if it might liberate others. Our differences are to be celebrated and our complex histories embraced.”

For further information or images please contact Anys at Anita Morris Associates on 01943 603311 /

Notes to editors:

LEEDS 2023

LEEDS 2023’s ambition is to deliver a transformational year of creative experiences connecting and benefiting people now and into the future. The planned programme will celebrate and transform the City’s identity locally, nationally and internationally – creating a lasting legacy of economic and social impact. 

LEEDS 2023 is run by the Leeds Culture Trust, an independent charity set up in 2019 by Leeds City Council as part of its Culture Strategy and as a response to the cancellation of the UK’s participation in the European Capital of Culture competition. Leeds City Council recognises in a number of its key strategies the difference culture and creativity can make to a city and its citizens, and is the principal funder of LEEDS 2023. 

About The National Lottery Heritage Fund

*National Lottery Heritage Fund grant applications over £250,000 are assessed in two rounds. The LEEDS 2023 has initially been granted round one development funding of £380,000 by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, allowing it to progress with its plans. Detailed proposals are then considered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund at second round, where a final decision is made on the full funding award. 

Using money raised by the National Lottery, the Heritage Fund Inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future.

Follow @HeritageFundUK on TwitterFacebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund

Since The National Lottery began in 1994, National Lottery players have raised over £43 billion for projects and more than 635,000 grants have been awarded across the UK.