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Culture, sports and the arts all represented as Leeds 2023 announces its board of trustees

  • 20th December 2019
  • Posted by culture control

Leeds 2023 has unveiled its board of trustees, bringing together a wealth of expertise from across the arts, academia, business, marketing, popular culture and sport.

To be led by culture trust Chair Ruth Pitt, the trustees have been appointed to work alongside Leeds 2023 Executive Director Mark Hollander and Creative Director Kully Thiarai, both due to take up their posts early in 2020.

As well as providing individual specialisms and expertise to support the world-class, inclusive and diverse Leeds 2023 cultural programme, the trustees also bring business and commercial experience covering key governance duties such as law, accountancy and education. A wide range of community interests are represented.

Leeds 2023 was originally the city’s bid for European Capital of Culture status before the Brexit referendum result halted its progress. But in a resounding endorsement of the social and economic value that culture can add to a city region, Leeds City Council opted to keep its original core funding of £12m in place. Leeds 2023 was duly established as the independent charity Leeds Culture Trust and charged with raising the additional funds required and delivering a 12-month festival of culture.

As the trust awaits the arrival of its new creative director Kully Thiarai and exec director Mark Hollander early in the New Year, the core festival team is already starting to develop partnerships with a wide range of artistic, creative, business and community groups to ensure local involvement and creative talent can be realised alongside the ambition to reach a global audience and shine a cultural spotlight on Leeds.

Chair Ruth Pitt said she was delighted with the breadth and depth of talent that Leeds 2023 had attracted to its board, saying: “I believe we have the perfect mix of experience and personalities needed to guide the trust through the next three years of planning and then delivering an amazing cultural programme. This is on a scale Leeds has never seen before.

“We have youth, sports, the media, performance arts and education all represented on our board, which is truly inspiring and just one example of the collaborative approach we’ll be taking tap into the many amazing talents that exist across our city region.”

Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council and former deputy chair of Leeds 2023’s Independent Steering Group said: “It’s exciting to see the extraordinary breadth of talent, knowledge and experience that’s joining the Leeds 2023 team and for the council to be playing such an important role in taking this ambitious project forward.

“Leeds 2023 has been on a remarkable journey already and throughout that journey, our shared commitment to culture and unshakable belief in the difference it can make to our city and its communities has never wavered.

“I look forward to continuing to work alongside Leeds Culture Trust and to seeing the incredible passion and endeavour of everyone involved in helping to bring the vision of a game-changing new cultural festival for Leeds to life.”


For press enquiries please contact:

Ruth Pitt 07713063447

Jennifer Gridley 07715282230



L-R top row – Councillor Judith Blake, Sharon Watson, Ruth Pitt, Barbara Woroncow

L-R middle row – Frank Finlay, Ian Thompson, Sharon Gladish, Sanchez Payne

L-R bottom row – Jamie Jones Buchanan, Sue Hoyle, Councillor Dan Cohen, Keith Arrowsmith


Photography by Simon Dewhurst




The Leeds Culture Trust Board of Trustees are:

Ruth Pitt (Chair)
Ruth has a wealth of experience across the media and cultural landscape and helped to shape Leeds City Region’s successful bid to be the home of Channel 4’s new National HQ. A journalist and documentary maker by background, Ruth runs mentoring networks that help develop next generation talent for the creative industries and is also the Director of the Creative Cities Convention and a Trustee of Leeds Playhouse.

Cllr Judith Blake

Councillor Judith Blake was elected as the first ever female Leader of Leeds City Council in May 2015. Councillor Blake is the Chair of the Core Cities Group. The Group represents the Councils of England’s eight largest city economies outside London, along with Glasgow and Cardiff. She is also Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children & Young People’s Board. Councillor Blake was the deputy chair of the former Leeds 2023 Independent Steering Group.

Jamie Jones Buchanan

Jamie, born and raised in Bramley, is an ex professional rugby league player and has represented the city through the Leeds Rhinos for over 20 years.  Jamie played his entire professional career with the Rhinos winning six Super League Grand Finals, three World Club Challenges, three League Leaders’ Shields and one Challenge Cup Final.

Jamie is dedicated to inspiring more communities in Leeds, he is a trustee of Leeds Rhino’s Foundation and Red Ladder Theatre Company.

Cllr Dan Cohen

Councillor Dan Cohen, born in Alwoodley and elected to represent the Alwoodley ward in May 2011, is a Conservative city councillor. As Shadow Cabinet Member for Leisure, Culture & Skills, Councillor Cohen plays an active role in supporting the city’s cultural ambitions.
With a long-term interest in education, he is keen see young people involved in ideas for the city’s cultural development. He is a school governor for several schools within Alwoodley, including the Jewish Free School. Being part of the Jewish community himself, he frequently delivers talks to classes about celebrating difference and what it means to be both part of the Jewish community and the councillor community. Councillor Cohen was a member of the former Leeds 2023 Independent Steering Group.

Frank Finlay

Frank Finlay has been Professor of German at the University of Leeds since 1999. He is recognised as a distinguished scholar in his field, with teaching and research interests in German literature and culture. He is Director of the University’s Cultural Institute which he set up to promote collaborations between academics, students and the arts and culture and creative industries sectors. He takes up a new University role as Dean of Cultural Engagement in January 2020. Frank was a former member of the Leeds 2023 Independent Steering Group.

Sharon Gladish

Sharon is a chartered accountant who has lived, studied and worked in Leeds for 27 years. She was a member of the Community Engagement Group for Leeds 2023 before becoming a trustee. In her spare time, Sharon is a viola player, performing with orchestras and chamber groups.

Sue Hoyle

Sue Hoyle OBE is a consultant and adviser, specialising in arts and leadership. She is a Cultural Fellow of King’s College London and Lay Commissioner for the Judicial Appointments Commission.  Previous roles have included Director of Clore Leadership, Executive Director of The Place and Deputy Secretary General of Arts Council England

Sanchez Payne

Sanchez, born and raised in Chapeltown, has represented the city of Leeds in many capacities. A former professional football player, Sanchez has played for both Leeds City Boys and Leeds United. Recently, Sanchez has moved on to work in the media and hosts his own show “Backstage” on Wednesdays on BBC Radio Leeds. Sanchez has been involved in Leeds 2023 since the beginning as a member of the young people’s group Think Leeds 2023.

Ian Thompson

As owner and Creative Director of Thompson Brand Partners for 35 years, Ian worked for organisations like Morrisons,, Paul Smith, London 2012 and The Tour de France. He moved on from his business in late 2018 to develop his interest in film making and is currently working on a documentary series about male dancing and his love of Northern Soul.

Barbara Woroncow OBE MA FMA

Barbara Woroncow OBE was Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Museums Council for 16 years. A Past President of the UK Museums Association, she was awarded an OBE in 2000 for services to museums. Consultancy work followed for UNESCO and others in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus, especially in change management and governance.

Sharon Watson

Sharon Watson is the seventh and longest-standing Artistic Director of Phoenix Dance Theatre. Trained at the London School of Contemporary Dance, she was one of the first female Principal Dancers invited to join the all-male award-winning Phoenix Dance Theatre (formerly Phoenix Dance Company). Since then she has been named ‘Yorkshire Woman of the Year’ in 2016 and in of July 2019 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Leeds Beckett University for her contribution to the arts. Sharon chaired the Independent Steering Group which drove the Leeds 2023 initiative.

(Company Secretary) Keith Arrowsmith

Keith Arrowsmith is a solicitor providing charity law and governance advice. He qualified in 1995 and has since then been helping not for profit organisations and individuals who are active in the cultural, creative, heritage, educational and media sectors.

He is the Head of Legal for Counterculture Partnership. He provides guidance and assistance on governance, intellectual property, business law, contracts, website regulations and charity law.
Keith is a Governance Associate for the Clore Leadership Programme. Has been an Independent Advisory Board member for Screen Yorkshire, Company Secretary for the Children’s Media Conference, and a board member of Creative and Cultural Industries.

Keith was recommended in the independent publication Legal 500 in 2019 and 2020.

Notes for editors:

• Leeds 2023 aims to deliver an exceptional programme of cultural investment that will culminate in an international year of culture in and around the city.

• Leeds 2023 is being directed by the Leeds Culture Trust, the charity set up in 2019 to create a £35 million cultural investment programme and to deliver the artistic programme in the year of 2023.

• The planned programme will celebrate and transform the city’s identity locally, nationally and internationally – creating a lasting legacy of economic and social impact.