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We’re Letting Culture Loose

7 smartly-dressed adults from The Performance Ensemble are sat on chairs in a line. Each person is holding a balloon and laughing.

The search for stories that will fuel the creative programme for LEEDS 2023 has begun with a new drive to unleash the diverse creativity in every corner of the city

  • Corinne Bailey Rae and Kaiser Chiefs’ Simon Rix announced as LEEDS 2023 Patrons
  • Will feature 12 signature events, major ‘wow’ moments and a multitude of partnership events
  • 23 artists will be commissioned to create 23 new projects for LEEDS 2023

Stakeholders and business leaders will gather virtually at Left Bank Leeds on Tuesday 25th May for a special livestream launch of LEEDS 2023’s ‘Letting Culture Loose’ – a new drive that will see artists working with local people in communities across the city, as support ramps up for this ground-breaking year of cultural activity.

The new mantra aims to dispel any narrow definitions of art and culture, unlocking opportunities for every child and resident in all 33 Leeds wards to be part of 365 days of cultural celebrations that will see the West Yorkshire city’s future transformed.

Leeds Culture Trust, the charity behind Leeds 2023, is launching ‘Letting Culture Loose’ to champion all forms of creativity that take place every day in Leeds’s diverse communities; working to uncover the hidden, unconventional, unusual stories and unsung heroes that ultimately will form part of a new narrative for a city whose time in the limelight is long overdue. 

Leeds’s own cultural stars have also given their backing to the idea. Internationally acclaimed singer songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae and Simon Rix, bassist with Kaiser Chiefs, winners of Brit awards and Ivor Novello awards, have signed up as patrons of LEEDS 2023, joining patron and Poet Laureate Simon Armitage. 

The virtual event will reveal that the year-long celebration – the first large-scale event of its kind in the city region – will feature 12 signature events, major ‘wow’ moments of international significance and a multitude of events in partnership with artists and organisations, engaging both Leeds’ residents and visitors to the city. 

Also announced, to help accelerate the cultural sector’s recovery from the pandemic, is a new programme of commissions from 23 artists who will work in 23 communities of Leeds: ‘My World, My City, My Neighbourhood’. With funding from Arts Council England, ‘My World, My City, My Neighbourhood’ will support a wide range of people to get involved in LEEDS 2023 and help shape the year of culture. A movement of 23 ‘culture makers’ will work alongside local communities, representative of the cultural diversity of the city and its 170 languages, to imagine and test new ideas that could lead to projects in 2023.

LEEDS 2023 is also offering seed commissions to artists in the city to develop new ideas for the year of culture. Information about the seed commissions and ‘My World, My City, My Neighbourhood’ is available at

LEEDS 2023 asked a selection of local artists and community organisations to let culture loose in a series of surprising new commissions to coincide with today’s launch. Their responses are engaging, inclusive and imaginative projects taking place across the city and online. Projects include two new sculptures to be sited in the community, a roaming photography studio capturing photos of the people of Leeds, and a special day-long broadcast from one of the city’s favourite indie radio stations, Sable Radio. 

Kully Thiarai, Creative Director and Chief Executive LEEDS 2023 said:

We want everyone to have the opportunity to be part of our year of culture; there is so much to showcase to the world about the city, its people and its creativity. I’m excited that today we’ve been able to share some of the ways we will do that.

“LEEDS 2023 is all about ‘letting culture loose’ and being completely open to any and all ideas that emerge, involving as many local people as possible in this crucial and exciting stage. Our imagination enables us all to be storytellers. Creativity is in all of us, sometimes we just need to be guided to re-connect with that bit of ourselves that wants to joyfully and curiously play and dream. LEEDS 2023 creates an opportunity for us all to come together and collectively do this. 

She added: “LEEDS 2023 will be a catalyst for transformation; one that brings people together to participate, celebrate and see the world afresh. It also will be a massive team effort locally, regionally, nationally and internationally and I’m thrilled to welcome our latest Patrons Corinne Bailey Rae and Simon Rix whose backing is a big vote of confidence in our vision for LEEDS 2023 and all that we are trying to do.”

Pete Massey, Director, North, Arts Council England said:

“This past year has highlighted the vital role arts and culture plays in defining the places and communities we live in. As we slowly begin to ease out of lockdown it is fantastic to see that Leeds recognises the role culture has to play in both the social and economic recovery from Covid. LEEDS 2023 was always an excellent idea, but we are beginning to see what a fantastic reality it will become and what a boon for the city and the region it will be. I’m proud that we have been able to support artists across Leeds through the ‘My World, My City, My Neighbourhood’ project to engage communities from around the city to get involved in this year of culture.

‘Letting Culture Loose’ embodies everything we want to achieve through our 10-year strategy Let’s Create – it will bring communities together giving them a voice through creativity. I look forward to seeing the great work that is created by the people of Leeds.”

Councillor James Lewis, leader of Leeds City Council, said: 

“We have been on quite a journey with LEEDS 2023 as together we’ve watched this bold, ambitious project grow and evolve. What has always remained constant though, is the shared vision to put the imaginative and creative people of Leeds at the heart of what will be a landmark celebration of everything that makes this city such a unique and inspiring place.

He added: “I’m delighted to see this continuing and for the latest step towards LEEDS 2023 to be so focussed on ensuring our communities are given the spotlight and recognition they so richly deserve after the toughest of years. Working closely with the talented team at LEEDS 2023, we’re looking forward to seeing the city’s incredible stories told and to the power of culture in bringing Leeds together in a whole new way.”

Image The Performance Ensemble
Credit Sara Teresa Photography