Leeds 2023 to be the biggest celebration of the region’s arts and culture

For the organisers behind what promises to be one of the biggest celebrations of the region’s arts and culture, it is a moment to provide clarity in their painstaking planning.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 25th January 2022, 4:45 am

In a year’s time, Leeds 2023 will begin, bringing 12 months of major events alongside a concerted effort to engage with communities across the city.

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The year-long celebration, which is the first large-scale festival of its kind in the Leeds city region, will feature 12 signature events of international significance and a multitude of smaller occasions in partnership with artists and organisations, engaging Leeds’ residents and visitors to the city.

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To start the countdown to the major milestone, organisers have created a new short film featuring world champion parkour athlete David Nelmes.

To start the countdown to the major milestone, organisers have created a new short film featuring world champion parkour athlete David Nelmes.

In the specially commissioned short film, Mr Nelmes – who is originally from Cross Gates – takes the viewer with him up and over the city’s landmarks, vaulting over walls and leaping through windows, meeting different creative individuals and communities along his route.

“It feels amazing to be part of Leeds 2023,” Mr Nelmes said. “To be an ambassador for the city as well as for parkour is a big deal.

“I hope that when people watch the film they are able to appreciate the sport as well as all the places we went and people involved.

A total of 65 artists and groups have already received funding to develop seed commissions for Leeds 2023.

“I hadn’t been to many of these spots before and so it made me more aware of just how much there is going on in Leeds.

“I think Leeds 2023 is going to be incredible, and I’m really excited to be part of it.”

The film challenges the usual definition of culture in Leeds with a mix of locations and organisations featured, ranging from Kirkgate Market to Bramley Baths, and the Northern School of Contemporary Dance to the Howard Assembly Room.

The festival will feature work across the 33 wards of the city and the artists featured in the film are just some of those preparing for the year of culture.

Throughout the past 18 months, organisers of Leeds 2023 have been working with artists and organisations across the city, commissioning and encouraging those in or connected to the city to develop projects that could take place during next year.

A total of 65 artists and groups have already received funding to develop seed commissions for Leeds 2023, while there are at least another 50 conversations still taking place on a wave of further projects.

The creative director for Leeds 2023, Kully Thiarai, said: “This time next year we will be presenting to the world our Leeds, a city that is vibrant and bold and full of exceptional, creative people.

“This next year is when we put everything together to make sure that Leeds 2023 is a celebration in every LS postcode, that every child in a Leeds school can be part of this year of culture and that we make the most of the 365 days in 2023.”

The festival of arts and culture in Leeds next year originated from the UK’s departure from the European Union.

Leeds Council had originally applied for the city to become European Capital of Culture in 2023, but the European Commission said it would not be eligible after Brexit.

Following cross-party spport, the backing of more than 20 local businesses and a public poll in the Yorkshire Evening Post, the decision was made to run a year-long celebration of culture regardless.

The event is being run by the Leeds Culture Trust, an independent charity set up in 2019 by Leeds Council as part of its culture strategy.

Writing in the Yorkshire Evening Post earlier this month, Baroness Judith Blake said: “Leeds 2023 will offer not just hope on the horizon but tangible activities that will make a positive difference to people’s lives, helping to strengthen bonds in our communities.

“It is about so much more than a year of great events, exciting though that promises to be. The legacy of 2023 matters and that means embedding culture into the life of the whole city: in education, youth projects, working across all ages and communities, accessible to all.”

She added: “Leeds 2023 is about creating opportunities for everyone to be involved in culture in their own area, and we’re seeing the benefits of the city’s investment now with creative projects already taking root in more than 20 Leeds communities.”

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