About LEEDS 2023

Our Story

A little bit about us and our Year of Culture.

Two volunteers pose with thumbs up at The Awakening

LEEDS 2023: Year of Culture

For one whole year, we’re Letting Culture Loose. 

LEEDS 2023 is an independent, not-for-profit Year of Culture supporting hundreds of creative and cultural events across the city and beyond. We're showing off Leeds to the world putting it front and centre as an exciting and vibrant cultural destination.

LEEDS 2023 is delivered in partnership with world-class creatives, homegrown talent, local communities and international arts organisations.

Three parts. One city.

There are three parts to our Year of Culture - Awakening, Playing and Dreaming. A three part epic act of storytelling for, in and with the city. Creating a unique programme of events designed to awaken all of us to the familiar and the surprising, the hidden and the unheralded, the playful and the profound. Discover each chapter of the LEEDS 2023 story, as we shine a light on what makes our city so special.

    Pink neon lights spelling Awakening reflect in the canal of Leeds with a city landscape behind it

    1 January - 30 April

    We invited everyone to experience Leeds like never before. Part One: Awakening introduced a unique programme of events to wake up our senses, show a new side to the city, and kickstart a year like no other. 

    Balloons in the middle of a residential street surrounding the word 'Playing'

    1 May - 31 August

    Let’s unleash our curiosity! Part Two: Playing introduced a series of unmissable events all set to spark our sense of adventure. A time to explore a world of magical new experiences, and let our playful side loose as our Year of Culture continued. 

    Dreaming in neon text above the clock in kirkgate market striking 11pm

    1 September - 31 December

    When we dream, we’re alone with our visions. But when we allow ourselves to dream while we’re awake, we become a city that’s brought to life with new ideas. The time for dreamers is here.

LEEDS 2023's signature projects

An unforgettable year in our own backyard.

Throughout the year, we’re putting on a series of major cultural projects – each one unique and designed to do things we haven’t seen in Leeds before.


This was just the beginning...

Our story began with an invitation: share an artwork with us to get a ticket to our first event The Awakening. Thousands responded.

Those thousands joined us in celebrating Leeds’ cultural past, present and future at Headingley Stadium.

Discover The Awakening

April - May

What happens when you raise a barn, then fill it to the rafters with hopes for the future?

Following a spectacular 24 hour build by 300 women, girls and non-binary people, The WOW Barn was a place inspired by the dream of an equitable world. Where people came together to enjoy activities and gatherings, and imagine a world in which women, girls and non-binary people have the space, time, support and permission to live their dreams.

Discover The WOW Barn

June - December

Inspired by the ancient forests of Leeds.

This new public artwork in City Square reawakens history and captures the magic of the Forest of Leodis. Galvanised by Leeds’ roots as an ancient woodland, visual artist Michael Pinsky and environmental architects Studio Bark put sustainability at the heart of this epic sculptural forest for LEEDS 2023.

Discover Making A Stand

All year

Who better to shine a light on the amazing communities of Leeds and tell their stories than the people themselves? For My LEEDS 2023 our Neighbourhood Hosts representing every ward in Leeds have come together to organise city-wide celebrations all summer long.

Artist Keith Khan will also be presenting a gift to every ward of the city as part of the celebrations.

Discover My LEEDS 2023


Children’s Day: Reimagined was a family-friendly event in Roundhay Park, celebrating the children of Leeds.  

Inspired by the Children’s Day event of the past and boldly reimagined for the future, it imagined what the world would look like if children were in charge.

Discover Children's Day: Reimagined

August onwards

Celebrating the Leeds-born trailblazer of civil engineering, John Smeaton, Smeaton300 is a series of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths events and activities taking place across the city.

Get playful with talks, exhibitions, workshops and even jump aboard our mobile observatory, Moon Palace, to view the moon and stars.

Discover Smeaton300


Nest was a large-scale theatre production that explored how we can combat the climate crisis and create a better world for future generations.

Set against the stunning backdrop of RSPB St Aidan's Nature Park, Nest followed the story of Skylar - a teenager in 2050 where climate change is shaking the natural world. Now that the bird watchers can no longer watch, Skylar’s home will never be the same again… 

Performed by over 100 young performers from across Leeds and the surrounding area, trained by National Youth Theatre, audiences gained exclusive access to St Aidan’s after hours to experience a theatre show that told an incredible story about migration and the future of our planet.

Discover Nest

October - November

Through art, sculpture, film and data, This is a FOREST explores what might be possible if we work with rather than against nature, exposing the systems and structures that prevent ecosystems from thriving.   

These public indoor and outdoor artworks invite us to explore ownership of earth, soil, air and water and how they are valued, asking what is land worth in ecological, health and  social terms.

Discover This is a FOREST

October - November

Celebrate Day of the Dead with Leeds’ very own Ellie Harrison and Zion Art Studio, from Mexico. Join us on a 9 day celebration of those we’ve loved and lost and send Ellie’s 13 year long body of work, The Grief Series, out in style.

Discover All That Lives

November onwards

African-inspired batik patterns decorate a 10 metre high hibiscus flower by Yinka Shonibare CBE, honouring the life and legacy of David Oluwale. 

This new permanent artwork offers an opportunity to reflect on Oluwale’s life story and creates a joyful, peaceful place for people to come together and connect. Inviting the city to remember the past and imagine a more inclusive future.

Discover Hibiscus Rising

From October

LEEDS 2023 and the British Library have come together to create a special gift for babies born in Leeds in 2023. 

Northern Dreaming is a collection of poetry and stories by 18 emerging and published writers. The book is designed to carry readers all the way through their childhood, and be treasured long after the last page has been turned.

Discover Northern Dreaming


The team that created The Awakening as the opening show of our Year of Culture are working on something entirely different and surprising for our closing event. Drawing from the magic of the darkest winter nights and the dawning of a new year, look out for further details about our closing ceremony as we bring a year of Awakening, Playing and Dreaming to a close.

Discover The Gifting

Your LEEDS 2023

Projects that put the communities of Leeds at their heart.

    people sat on floor in room
    My LEEDS 2023
    Hidden Stories
    July onwards

    Heritage is within us all.

    It’s in the stories we tell, the food we make, and the songs we sing. It’s what makes our city so special. Hidden Stories is our year-long co-created programme of special projects with creativity at their core, celebrating the heritage we all share.

    My LEEDS 2023
    My World, My City, My Neighbourhood
    2022 - 2023

    My World, My City, My Neighbourhood celebrates co-creation in all its forms. From communities taking ownership of disused space to new cultural festivals, the project speaks to the cities rich history of community action and shared agency. 

    The Awakening
    Waking The Artist
    Jan - Apr

    As part of our ticket ballot for ‘The Awakening’, we activated the artist within. We asked you to tap into your creative side and the response was so overwhelming, we simply had to share it.

    Waking The Artist was a series of activations of ballot artworks that crescendoed in a beautiful exhibition.

There's something for everyone

Exploring for yourself, or representing a school or group? We’ve lined up something for everyone.
A woman dressed in vibrant red clothing for carnival parade

For you, for everyone

You are the heart and soul of LEEDS 2023. Events and experiences are happening all year. Join us as we throw open the doors.
A class of school children holding up their art

For educators and learners of any age

Every child in Leeds has the chance to take part in the Year of Culture. Our creative learning programme features free activities for learners of all key stages. There are also opportunities for people of all ages to develop skills in the creative and cultural industries through workshops, masterclasses, placements, mentorship and industry projects.
house with mural

For prospective partners

Supporting LEEDS 2023 offers huge exposure to thousands of participants and visitors. Please join us.

What people are saying

I’m so excited about all the events that are coming up and I believe that together we can celebrate our amazing city and create memories that will last a lifetime and inspire future generations.
Mason Hicks, Children’s Mayor of Leeds
Whitkirk Primary School

What we're working towards

We’re a city that’s as much about food, as it is about dance, as much about art as it is about sport. We’re a place where people turn old into new, disused into reused, broken into ground-breaking. We’ve spent long enough being quiet about it, so now’s the time to shout about culture, perform it, make it and imagine it every day, in every part of the city.

When Leeds speaks, it has a proper story to tell.

Our Vision

A thriving, exciting and inclusive Leeds. Where creativity fuels opportunity. For everyone.

Our Mission

To deliver a year of creative experiences which connect people and change their relationship with culture for good.

Our impact

Across the wider region, LEEDS 2023 will highlight the strength of our tourism and creative industry, creating an expected return on investment of 8 to 1 across West Yorkshire.


We want to be as transparent as possible about our data and performance. You can see how we’re doing against our aims for LEEDS 2023 on data.leeds2023.co.uk

Two children look up at the screen

Highlights of the year

We’ve had so many great moments this year. It’s been a year of making memories

LEEDS 2023 belongs to people. Every event, activity and interaction has created its own story and had its own impact on the people who made it happen and who experienced it. We thank everyone who has made a memory so far.

Sign up to our newsletter

For latest announcements and get involved opportunities, sign-up to the LEEDS 2023 Email Newsletter.