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Weaving Us Together: Leeds 2023 Unveils European Capital of Culture Bid

  • 10th October 2017
  • Posted by Leeds 2023

The team behind Leeds’ bid to be European Capital of Culture 2023 has unveiled its exciting plans for a year-long programme to create a cultural celebration across all 33 wards in Leeds in 2023.

At a press conference held on 10 October, Leeds City Council Leader, Judith Blake, shared highlights from the first stage bid ahead of its  submission on 27th October. Introducing the theme of the bid she said:

“We promised that this would be a bid for the whole city and we intend to deliver on that promise, Culture can weave us together, celebrating our differences. This is the transformation at the heart of our bid to become European Capital of Culture 2023.”

“The city’s bid for the title will create a lasting legacy for Leeds, embracing equality and tackling the disconnection of a two-tier city. Under the theme ‘Weaving Us Together’, Leeds 2023 will see activity across all 33 wards; we want to see people from across the city actively engaged, particularly those who might not think the arts is for them”

Sharon Watson, Chair of the Leeds 2023 Independent Steering Group added: “It has been a phenomenal journey to get to this point and it’s only the start. The bid alone has given the city enormous benefits from increased investment in arts and culture to raising our profile nationally and internationally. We have put forward a bold, creative and ambitious artistic programme that will celebrate local artists, creators and producers alongside their international contemporaries, telling our story to the world.”

A win for the city would bring enormous benefits, with Liverpool reporting a £750m economic impact for their year as host in 2008 and a 34% increase in tourism. Amongst the developments already in the pipeline for Leeds 2023 are plans to create an additional 2,500 hotel beds, the redevelopment of City Square and the proposed new City Park at South Bank,

Cllr Blake added: “Culture is completely integral to Leeds’ ambition to become Best City 2030, our bid is one milestone in a long-term plan to place culture at the heart of the city’s future and we are not alone in this commitment. Our bid has received extensive private sector investment and has won the backing of 25 councils from across the north including Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Hull.”

Leeds City Council will formally consider the city’s bid at its Executive Board meeting on 18th October.



The Artistic Programme

  • The Leeds 2023 Artistic Programme is structured around four themes that have a resonance with Leeds and across Europe. The Leeds 2023 themes are Fabric, Fear & Belonging, Voice and Room.
  • The Bid Book outlines 50% of the proposed Artistic Programme and will include more than 40 projects covering dance, music, visual art, theatre, large-scale installations, festivals and architectural projects.
  • Light Night Leeds, the city’s flagship cultural event will be extended and move to January marking the start of the city’s year as European Capital of Culture should it be successful in its bid.
  • Two of the bids ambitious targets are to increase arts attendance in the five most disadvantaged areas of the city by 20%, and ensuring that at least 70% of the city experiences one or more event should Leeds win.

27th October 2017

  • The city will formally submit its first stage bid to the Department for Culture Media and Sport on 27th The bid submission will be followed by a panel interview with a shortlist expected to be announced early December.
  • Leeds will celebrate its first stage bid submission by hosting a celebration at Quarry Hill with a street party, open house, festival full of food, music, dance, theatre and art from 12-8pm featuring organisations including West Yorkshire Playhouse, Northern Ballet, Yorkshire Dance, Phoenix Dance, North Brewing Co, Leeds Indie Food and Leeds College of Music.

General Information

  • Leeds 2023 is supported by the following organisations: Leeds City Council; University of Leeds; Leeds Beckett University; Leeds Trinity University; Leeds Arts University; Leeds College of Music; Leeds College of Building; Leeds City College; Northern School of Contemporary Dance; Yorkshire Water; Yorkshire Building Society; Yorkshire Bank; aql; Squire Patton Boggs; Arup; CEG; Turner & Townsend; DLA Piper; Bruntwood; Keepmoat; Rushbond; Awesome Merchandise; Leeds Business Improvement District; Welcome to Yorkshire, Leeds Bradford Airport; Visit Leeds; and West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce.
  • Leeds is bidding for the title of European Capital of Culture 2023. The competition can only be hosted by UK five times per century and was last hosted in 2008 when Liverpool won the title. Prior to this Glasgow is the only other UK city to have hosted the competition, in 1990.
  • Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture 2008 is estimated to have resulted in an economic impact of £750 million and opinion surveys showing an 85% increase in satisfaction from the local residents.
  • The Leeds bid is being led by and Independent Steering Group which has cross party support from Leeds City Council. Leeds City Council is a minority funder of the bid with commercial partners and sponsorship contributing to the majority of the investment in bidding.
  • The bid process takes four years with Leeds starting conversations about bidding in 2014 and expecting a decision in mid-2018.
  • The competition is delivered by the European Commission but not specifically for EU Countries. Norway, Iceland and Switzerland are all outside of the EU and have all hosted successful European Capitals of Culture. The competition is administered in the UK by the Department for Culture Media & Sport (DCMS).
  • Two cities host the competition each year. In 2023 one UK city and one Hungarian city will host the title. Current European Capitals of Culture are Aarhus in Denmark and Pafos in Cyprus.
Image: Light Night Leeds 2016
Simon Dewhurst