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New research and evaluation partners to redefine ‘value’ of cultural investment

University of Leeds Credit: Carl Milner for Leeds City Council

LEEDS 2023 has announced the Centre for Cultural Value (CCV), a national research centre based at the University of Leeds and The Audience Agency (TAA) – a world leader in the field of audience engagement data – as its research and evaluation partners. 

The organisations will work together to explore how the year-long cultural programme impacts the varied and diverse communities of the city. Over the next twelve months, the CCV and TAA will work with LEEDS 2023 to embed their new Evaluation Principles and create a robust framework for evaluation, really getting under the skin of the desired outcomes including its ambition for every person in Leeds to benefit from the year of culture. 

Penny Mills, Chief Consulting Officer at The Audience Agency said: “We are delighted to be leading the evaluation of LEEDS 2023 in partnership with the team at CCV.  We are designing a holistic and transparent approach to assess its social, cultural and economic impacts to help understand the immediate and longer-term value for residents, communities and the creative and cultural sector of the city and region and for its visitors.”

Throughout 2023, the CCV will undertake a whole range of qualitative research working with artists, audiences and on the ground in communities, to understand the impact of culture on people’s lives and how it affects their mental and physical wellbeing as well as their attitudes to arts, culture, heritage and sport.

The LEEDS 2023 commission will build on the pioneering work TAA and CVV have undertaken over the last year to explore the impact Covid-19 is having on cultural organisations, the cultural sector workforce, and audiences. The first study of its kind, due to be published early next year, involved hundreds of interviews with cultural sector workers across every artform, from major cultural venues to grassroots creatives alongside a national consortium of academic researchers to understand the implications for how and what policy decisions are made in response to the crisis in the hope it will influence future decisions. 

Ben Walmsley at the Centre for Cultural Value added: “We are excited by the ambition of LEEDS 2023 and really looking forward to continuing our successful long-term collaboration with The Audience Agency by leading on the research aspects of the evaluation. This project offers the perfect opportunity for us to apply our new Evaluation Principles that were co-created with the cultural sector and to roll out our new Valuing Culture platform to help capture individual stories of the impacts of the city’s year of culture. As LEEDS 2023’s Research Partner, the Centre for Cultural Value is also delighted to be supervising a dedicated PhD to further explore the impact of cities of culture through an in-depth case study of LEEDS 2023. This has been fully funded by the Arts, Humanities and Cultures Faculty of the University of Leeds and we will be issuing an open call for candidates in the next few weeks.”

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.

Kully Thiarai, artistic director of Leeds 2023 said: “We are so excited to work with The Audience Agency and the Centre for Culture Value over the next three years to redefine what ‘value’ means in relation to culture and everyday creativity. We know that investing in culture goes beyond its economic impact, and it is brilliant that Leeds can play a leading role in taking forward the incredible work these organisations are doing to build a shared understanding of the differences that arts, culture and heritage make to people’s lives.”