Capital of Culture 2023: Your chance to champion Leeds

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Today we issue a rallying cry for the people of Leeds to come forward and help shape the city’s bid to be named European Capital of Culture 2023.

The Yorkshire Evening Post is throwing its weight behind the campaign for Leeds to join the premier league of global cultural hotspots - but the bid needs your support.

Leader of Leeds City Council, Coun Judith Blake.

Leader of Leeds City Council, Coun Judith Blake.

City leaders have today launched a hunt for people across Leeds to be part of a steering group which will be instrumental in putting the all-important bid together.

The search marks the first major milestone in the city’s journey which could culminate in a glorious year of events showcasing the best of our cultural and creative offerings. We are calling on the city’s residents, community groups, businesses and organisations to give the bid their backing and help Leeds win the high-profile title. Members of the steering group will be responsible for agreeing the vision, focus and themes of the bid before it is submitted to a judging panel in December 2017.

In an exclusive interview with the YEP, leader of Leeds City Council, Coun Judith Blake spoke of her hopes for the city’s cultural gems to be realised on the global stage and appealed for the public’s help.

She said: “Leeds is a fabulous city with incredible architecture surrounded by incredible countryside. This is a real opportunity to showcase the physical strengths of Leeds but most importantly to really demonstrate the character of Leeds - what makes Leeds Leeds. The people who live here, the extraordinary diversity and how we can come together to work to put on a phenomenal showcasing of everything that is special about the city.”

Applications are open for seven positions on the steering group - including the role of independent chair - with more places also available on sub-groups. Each sub-group will focus on separate areas including cultural programming, marketing and communications, finance and fundraising, European partnerships and community engagement.

Applicants can be any age, involved in the arts or not, and the aim is to get a mix of people from all communities of Leeds.

Coun Blake said: “It’s an open request. This is one of the most exciting opportunities for people in Leeds to get involved. We’ve demonstrated already that when we involve people out in an event acting as ambassadors for us - like the Tour de France - we end up with a very strong offer that makes the difference.”

The bid aims to showcase the very best of Leeds - activities going on in the roots of communities as well as the city’s well-known cultural credentials, including Europe’s longest-running West Indian Carnival, the Leeds International Piano Competition, Opera North, Leeds Grand Theatre, First Direct Arena, Northern Ballet, world-renowned museums and galleries including the Royal Armouries and Henry Moore Institute and West Yorkshire Playhouse, which this week announced a £14m revamp.

Coun Blake said: “There’s such an energy, picking up on the success of the Tour de France, the Tour de Yorkshire, the Rugby World Cup, the Triathlon World Series coming here next year. All of those things that demonstrate the profile of Leeds.

“We want to make sure the bid captures all the cultural activity across the city and pulls it together in a way that accurately reflects the extraordinary work that is already happening in Leeds but also helps to get people together and ignite that creative spark.”

She added: “Above all, it is imperative that at its heart, the bid paints a true picture of what a vibrant, dynamic and culturally diverse city Leeds is and that it typifies the passion and enthusiasm of the people who live here.”

With an estimated cost of £14m to host European Capital of Culture 2023 - but with the economic benefit set to reach the hundreds of millions - key players and institutions across the city are also being urged get behind the bid and help reach the funding total.

The University of Leeds has already pledged £75,000 a year to support the bid process, but much more is needed.

Coun Blake said: “This isn’t just about the council. We’ve already had tremendous support from the university and we’re obviously looking to shape up the funding and support from businesses here in the city who recognise what an extraordinary contribution it will make, not only for the actual year when we have Capital of culture, but the lasting benefit to the city.”

She added: “There aren’t many opportunities where a UK city has a chance of winning the bid. If we don’t achieve it this time, it’s a 15-year wait before we can even consider putting another bid in. It’s a unique opportunity for us to seize the moment.”

YEP managing editor Nicola Furbisher said: “Leeds City Council is absolutely right to get the people of Leeds involved in this bid. There’s been a lot of talk about the Northern Powerhouse in terms of business - well here’s our chance to show what a Northern Powerhouse we are in terms of culture.”

The deadline to express an interest in being part of the steering or sub groups is July 31. Visit Applicants for the positions will then be shortlisted and interviewed before the final panels announced.

Already members are Coun Judith Blake, representatives from the two other main political parties and a representative from the University of Leeds.

*** The city must submit its expression of interest in becoming European Capital of Culture 2023 near the end of 2016.

The final bid must be submitted by December 2017.

If successful, Leeds would join the illustrious list of previous title holders including Paris, Berlin and Athens.