Five reasons why Leeds can be named Capital of Culture 2023

Civic Hall in Leeds.
Civic Hall in Leeds.
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This week the Yorkshire Evening Post nailed its colours to the mast and formally said that the city SHOULD bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2023. Mark Casci lists five reasons why Leeds can win the bid.

If there is one word which has characterised the city of Leeds throughout its history it is “proud”.

Its is chanted every weekend by tens of thousands of sports fans on the terraces of Elland Road and Headingley.

It is the reason why seemingly the whole city lined its streets as the world watched the Tour de France set off from here.

And it is the reason why the place has become such a hotbed for great art, writing, music and theatre for decades.

The Capital of Culture title might be more readily associated with the likes of Paris and Athens given their centuries of achievement and glory but let us also remember that these cities have had around a 1,500 year head start. Leeds is still a relatively new place and in its short lifetime has contributed so much to world’s cultural landscape.

Everyone will have their own suggestions and reasons as to why we should be crowned Capital of Culture 2023 and this conversation will be vital if we are to succeed. However here, for starters, are just seven areas of excellence that suggest why this amazing city that we all love should both bid for, and take, the accolade.


The city’s name is renowned the world over due to The Who’s 1970 classic album Live at Leeds. That reputation has been cemented in the last decade with the Leeds Festival, an event that attracts the biggest artists in the world on an annual basis, as well as tens of thousands of rowdy music fans.

More recently the Live at Leeds festival has become one of the most respected and prestigious festivals in the country, with the city centre’s manifold music venues packed to the rafters over the course of May Bank Holiday weekend with hundreds of acts.

While it is fair to say that, historically, Leeds has lagged behind Manchester and Liverpool when it comes to producing great music, the last 10-15 years have seen the city begin to make good the shortfall, with the likes of Kaiser Chiefs, Pigeon Detectives and Hawk Eyes attracting international attention.

The city also has two of the greatest music venues you could ask for.

The First Direct Arena has welcomed Prince, James Taylor, Kasabian and the aforementioned The Who this year. On a smaller yet equally weighty scale, we have one the nation’s most-loved music venues in the shape of the Brudenell Social Club in Hyde Park. The venue, with a capacity of just a couple of hundred, has seen legendary acts such as Martha Reeves and The Fall perform in the last few weeks alone.

In short Leeds sounds great and has a music scene to rival anything on the continent.


Leeds is one of the few UK cities outside of London to have its own opera company. Throw in to this mixture the City Varieties, the Grand, the West Yorkshire Playhouse and Northern Ballet and you are left with a situation wherein you are never short of an option when it comes to entertainment.

Let us not forget either that Leeds gave birth to one of the country’s foremost men of letters, Mr Alan Bennett.

One of the most respected playwrights and authors of modern times, one would imagine he would love to see his home town put so prominently on the map.


It is no exaggeration to say that Leeds United are one of the best known sporting teams in the world.

A massive club with an extraordinary history of colossal triumphs and disappointing heartbreaks, there has never been a dull moment at Elland Road.

They may be struggling in the second tier now but Leeds United, with its millions of passionate and proud fans, have been down on their luck before and risen to conquer new highs.

We also have one of the world’s most successful rugby league teams in the shape of Leeds Rhinos, who have risen to be world champions three times in the past decade, as well as dozens of league and cup titles.

And, when it comes to cricket, there are fewer venues so iconic as Headingley, home to so many triumphs for both Yorkshire and England.


Harvey Nicks. The Queen’s Arcade. Trinity Shopping Centre. If you want something, chances are you can buy it in Leeds.

The birthplace of Marks & Spencers, the city is so synonymous with shopping that we have been dubbed the “Knightsbridge of the North” but at the current rate we may soon be seeing that London enclave being called in the “Leeds of the South”. And it is not just the high end boutiques and arcades. Leeds is home to the largest indoor market in Europe, with high quality foods and fabrics from around the world available.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better retail experience than Leeds.


If there is one thing that we learned from the first weekend in July this year it is that we can deliver on an international scale, with confidence and swagger.

The Tour de France Grand Depart weekend was one of the proudest chapters in our region’s history and it began right here in Leeds city centre in front of a global audience of millions.

Leeds can more than punch above its weight and deliver the big occasion. We have proved it once and we will do it again.

The time is right for Leeds to bid to become Capital of Culture and everyone in the city should get behind it.

Let’s March on Together.