Aisha Iqbal: We’ll party like it’s 2023 ...with or without EU!

DANCE WITH DESTINY: Tom Holdsworth and Hannah Bateman of Northern Ballet at a Leeds2023 promotional event last year. PIC: Steve Riding
DANCE WITH DESTINY: Tom Holdsworth and Hannah Bateman of Northern Ballet at a Leeds2023 promotional event last year. PIC: Steve Riding
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Act One ended with a real cliffhanger, the second act promises some further intrigue - so heaven only knows where the denouement will take us!

Leeds’s European Capital of Culture bid is - by all accounts - no more, and instead we will now host our own Year of Culture in 2023, with a launch event at the end of the month.

There’s a bit of deja vu here, but also an overriding sense of ‘well if we can’t come to your party we’ll just throw our own’ about it.

Nowt wrong with that. We Loiners are resilient, and able to dust ourselves off from anything thrown our way. So ‘bah’ to the Brexit bureaucrats and their childish brinkmanship.

But a note of caution has to be sounded.

At a recent council meeting, tentative words of warning from the Green and Lib Dem benches about burdening the taxpayer with additional costs were met with (in my view unnecessary) shouts of derision as the Labour and Tory contingent decided to play nice for once and fly the flag for Leeds2023 - The Return.

But I have to say, I think the points being made were valid. The success of any flagship project like this has to have consideration for the wishes - and council tax bills - of ordinary voters at its core. Otherwise, you risk a deadly double bout of ‘egg on face’ and ‘I told you so’ syndrome when things go wrong.

Having said that, all the hard work that went into the original Leeds 2023 bid cannot, and must not, be wasted.

And here’s where we have a genuine opportunity to join the dots between our past, present and future cultural destiny.

This week, I have been talking to the people at CEG, the company that has swooped in to buy the Temple Works building.

I’ve written in the past about not having a great personal affinity with the building, but I have to say actually walking round it, and taking a wander around its magnificent roof, has changed my mind.

I’ve also stated before that Temple Works could be a key part of Leeds’s cultural ambitions.

Interestingly, Leeds’s own cultural strategy - which was central to the original Leeds2023 bid, regardless of the result - refers to Loiners’ love of heritage buildings.

Our love of our historic mills and other architectural assets is intrinsically linked to our perception of cultural wealth.

So, why not take the ultimate leap and make Temple Works the launchpad - both symbolically and literally if needs be! - for the Leeds 2023 ‘Year of Culture’?

MORE INDEPENDENT CHOICES AT THE BALLOT BOX SHOULD BE WELCOMED

With the all-out local elections just four months away, I was heartened to read that a young lady in Holbeck is standing as an independent in protest at the controversial ‘managed zone’ for prostitutes and its effects on the local area.

Regardless of people’s views on the zone itself, or indeed their personal party politics, isn’t it great to see independent voices speaking out on issues of importance?

I am a big fan of this kind of one-ticket campaigning.

It’s the best kind of grass roots democracy in action.

Across politics generally, it seems, we have increasingly been losing all sense of nuance and genuine debate in recent times, where genuine discourse is replaced by populist rhetoric and extreme party politicking.

As the journey to May 2018 begins proper, it will be interesting to see how many more independent voices start to emerge in Leeds.

If you are standing as an independent, or thinking of doing so, call me on 0113 2388122 or email aisha.iqbal@ypn.co.uk and tell me why.

The 14th century solar block at Calverley Old Hall. Picture: John Miller

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