A CREATIVE extravaganza is taking place in Leeds this afternoon to mark the launch of a new institute that will champion the city’s cultural organisations.
The venture by the University of Leeds aims to increase participation in the arts, create more opportunities for students and support pioneering research collaborations.
Setting out the vision for the Cultural Institute, Vice-Chancellor Sir Alan Langlands said: “Put simply, we want to engage with the wider community, including the one on our immediate doorstep, to increase knowledge and enrich people’s lives.
“The Cultural Institute will enhance the university’s position as a beacon for creative innovation, helping to make Leeds an even more exciting and vibrant place in which to live, work and learn.”
The city is already home to leading creative and cultural organisations such as Opera North, Northern Ballet, the Henry Moore Institute and West Yorkshire Playhouse.
Annual events including the Leeds West Indian Carnival, Light Night, Leeds International Film Festival and Leeds International Piano Competition also draw crowds from across the region.
And the new Cultural Institute hopes to work with many of these to ensure the city’s place as one of the UK’s leading centres for the creative and cultural industries.
Together they represent the fastest expanding sector of the economy, generating £84bn in the UK in 2015.
Invited guests at today’s launch will get a taste of the wealth of talent in Leeds as they are treated to a wide selection of performances encompassing opera, drama, dance, poetry, music and film.
Participants and speakers range from current students to members of Opera North, South Asian Arts UK, and Yorkshire Dance, giving a global perspective encompassing community filmmaking in a South African township and rediscovered Jewish music and theatre feared lost in the Holocaust.
Other speakers will include Opera North general director Richard Mantle and Sharon Watson, artistic director of Phoenix Dance Theatre and chairwoman of Leeds’ bid to be European City of Culture in 2023.
The university is the principal academic partner in the bid, which would raise the city’s profile throughout the continent if successful.
Sir Alan also emphasised the potential benefits of research-intensive universities partnering with this sector to address challenges facing society, including those relating to health and wellbeing.
“We are determined that, wherever possible, our research should deliver benefits to society and the economy and have a profound impact on and relevance to people’s lives,” he said.
“The challenges we face have cultural dimensions and solutions – we can’t rely on science alone, every part of the University has to pull together to tackle issues of global concern.”
Sir Alan cited the example of a new project to assist in the rehabilitation of stroke survivors by bringing together experts in performance with partners in medicine, robotics, engineering and computing.
Guests at today’s launch will hear about a research partnership between Yorkshire Dance and the University’s School of Biomedical Sciences to investigate the potential benefits of contemporary dance in preventing falls in older adults.
The Cultural Institute will also have a key role in creating even more opportunities for students from across the University, providing learning experiences in new environments, volunteering and placement opportunities and inspiration for their own research and creative projects.