Here’s a question for you: What does every great global city have in common? The answer? Great culture.
Culture is at the heart of all thriving communities – and communities likewise only thrive when they have great culture at their heart. Culture and sport help us make sense of who we are, they help us decide what we think and feel, they make us human. And as we’ve all discovered in these dreadful days of Covid-19, culture and creativity bring us immense comfort at times of crisis and need.
At Leeds 2023, we like to think we’re waking the cultural giant that’s been there all along.
The Brexit referendum result may have scuppered our bid to be European Capital of Culture back in 2016 but in many ways it also freed us to go ahead and do it on our own terms, unconstrained by rules and regulations. It meant we could include sport for a start and, importantly, the decision to go ahead gave us a renewed confidence in ourselves.
This is our time. Channel 4 brought its new national headquarters to Leeds because our attributes are unbeatable. The British Library is coming here too for the same reasons. Leeds United’s promotion is a global stage for the city’s cultural life to dance upon. We have fantastic dance, theatre, music, culture. The Rugby League World Cup arriving in 2021 will be an awesome international celebration of community on our doorstep. We’re developing exciting plans for a National Poetry Centre…and that’s just the start.
Post-Covid, culture will be a more important part of the recovery than ever. But across the North, we have to make the case for culture TOGETHER. In Yorkshire we’re lucky. We have fantastic support for culture at city and regional level, with Leeds and Bradford council leaders Cllr Judith Blake and Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe having both held culture portfolios in the past. And the Leeds head of culture and sport Cluny Macpherson is a passionate advocate of the economic/social benefit of culture.
But we must all do our bit. Anyone voting for West Yorkshire mayoral candidates next year should give their backing to those who support cultural investment. The government should be investing in our Northern culture big-time, because culture assists the levelling up agenda – helping diverse communities to express themselves and have a stronger voice. And personally, wherever we can we have to support our struggling culture, sport, food, drink and hospitality sectors as the impact of the pandemic continues to bite hard.
Some say culture shouldn’t be about economic benefit. Others say it should only be about economic benefit. I say the great thing about the value of culture is that it’s BOTH those things. It drives prosperity but it delivers mental health and social benefits too. It brings comfort to millions and an understanding of the world we live in, but it increases visitors, profile and investment too.
As a Northern Powerhouse we’re strong. As a Northern Cultural Powerhouse we’re unstoppable. Let’s work together and get this recovery on the road.
Ruth Pitt, Chair Leeds 2023,