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The Future is Culture

LEEDS 2023 was one step in a long and ongoing journey travelled by the city and many people across it. It wasn’t a big bang that came from nowhere and it was never designed to stand alone.

Culture is the lifeblood of Leeds

LEEDS 2023 Year of Culture was 10 years in the making - it’s the bravery, strength and determination of thousands of people who made it happen.

LEEDS 2023 has drummed up a beat and it’s been felt in every corner of the city. New connections have formed alongside memories made. 

Now more than ever, the thirst for culture is clear, communities are keen to keep it coming.

performers are lit with headtorches, lit birds fly and the audience looks on
JMA Photography

Looking back on 2023 for Leeds

“This has been an inspirational year which has seen culture come to life in communities across the city and showcased the very best of Leeds to the world. 

“From the cultural organisations large and small who got involved, to the many volunteers and all those who attended a dynamic programme of events, the city has really come together to celebrate and shout about everything that makes us proud to be Leeds. 

“Now it’s up to us all to continue that spirit of pride and collaboration as we look ahead to the many exciting cultural events and activities in the coming year and beyond.” 

- Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Economy, Culture and Education

The new Cultural Investment Programme

Leeds City Council has launched a new Cultural Investment Programme, designed specifically to get funding to creatives in the city. With five streams of funding, the programme aims to invest in a diverse range of activities. 

Find out more
a tall sculpture of a hibiscus flower decorated in red, purple, green, yellow and blue batik patterns.
David Lindsay

Looking back; a condensed history of LEEDS 2023

2015 - 2018

In March 2015, following city-wide consultation, Executive Board agreed that Leeds City Council would bid to become the European Capital of Culture 2023 (ECoC). The competition was then launched in December 2016. 

Support was galvanised in October 2017 when the Executive Board adopted the bid and it attracted major support from Leeds businesses and institutions.  

By the end of 2017, as a consequence of the result of the EU Referendum, the European Capital of Culture competition for UK bidding cities was cancelled. 

In the New Year, Leeds City Council decided to do it anyway, when they agreed to see Leeds host an independent ‘Year of Culture’, and so began the development of Leeds Culture Trust. 

Group of women push a wooden support in to place building a barn
JMA Photography

2019 - 2023

The Trust became incorporated as a charity in 2019 and entered into a grant agreement with the council. 

2020 saw Kully Thiarai take up the post of the Trust’s CEO and Artistic Director, and by May of the following year, the ‘Letting Culture Loose’ concept was launched to the public. 

2022 was packed with community roadshows and development work with residents and artists, and events to mark "One Year to Go" and the "100 Days to Go" countdown. 

On 7 January 2023 in Headingley Stadium, LEEDS 2023 Year of Culture launched, with the acclaimed opening show: The Awakening. 

Actor David Lane performs on the ceremonial mound stage at The Gifting
David Anthony Bevan Lane - JMA Photography

Culture blooms in Leeds

An Extract from ‘The Gifting’ Closing Show, LEEDS 2023

“Staring up, remembering, at a giant colourful flower that bursts through the concrete and up to the sky. Roaring in a crowd as a goal, a try, a run is scored for your team, your country, your mates. It matters.

This year, like all others before and all the others yet to come, has been made of stories. Stories we made into memories together. If the endeavour of the last 12 months has taught us anything, it is that these memories matter. They will be the future myths of the city.

The truth is stories matter. We all do.”

Kully Thiarai & Alan Lane – Co-Directors, The Gifting

Explore More About Culture in Leeds

Learn about our story over on Wikipedia, which provides a full 10 year timeline.

Read more about LEEDS 2023