‘Don’t let our #Leeds2023 European Capital of Culture dream vanish into dust’

Lenny Henry in Othello at West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
Lenny Henry in Othello at West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
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Don’t rob Leeds of the chance to showcase its cultural jewels on a global stage.

That was the message from civic leaders today following fears that the UK might abandon its European Capital of Culture obligations for 2023 following the Brexit vote.

Worries were raised after reports that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has warned Government colleagues against any such move.

The UK is currently committed to a British city being one of two title holders for 2023,

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Leeds has already spent two years and significant sums of money in putting its expression of interest together, with a number of panels set up to champion the bid.

And the city is an early front runner for the prestigious title, battling it out with Bristol, Milton Keynes and Dundee.

As previously reported in the YEP, estimates suggested that putting a bid together would cost £14m, however that would be dwarfed by the hundreds of millions of pounds of revenue the year of activities would bring to the city and leaving a lasting legacy.

Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “Preparing to bid for the European Capital of Culture in 2023 has already had a phenomenal impact in terms of bringing together some of the big organisations in Leeds to share the ambition to release the massive benefits culture can bring to society.

“What we need now is for Government to give the go ahead so the bidding process can start and we can really make the push to secure the title.

“If successful it would have a huge impact on Leeds and it’s imperative ministers do not forget or underestimate the significant benefits it can bring to a city like ours from a social and economic point of view.

“When Liverpool hosted it there was a 34 per cent increase in visitors to the city, resulting in an economic boost of over £750m. “Added to that, 85 per cent of residents there said the city became a better place to live than before.

“If the Government decides not to go ahead, UK cities that want to bid for 2023 like Leeds would miss out on the chance to get those benefits for the people who live and work here.”

Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland has also written to ministers on the issue.

He said Leeds City Council had already invested £500,000 in preparing its bid. Greg has written to Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, seeking an assurance that the UK will not be withdrawing from the competition.

Mr Mulholland said: “The European Capital of Culture title is a very prestigious award that only two UK cities have ever held.

“I and many others across Leeds have been looking forward to Leeds bidding for the 2023 title, and significant investment has already gone into preparing our city’s bid.

“It is disappointing to read that ministers are considering withdrawing from the competition and that is why I have written to Culture Secretary, Karen Bradley MP, seeking an assurance that the UK will not withdraw.”

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