Leeds 2023 bid book unveiled as deadline looms

PIC: Simon Hulme
PIC: Simon Hulme
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The construction of a giant lighthouse, a festival curated and run entirely by children under 15 and measures to transform parts of the city centre’s most iconic square are among just a handful of projects revealed by the team behind the bid to make Leeds European Capital of Culture in 2023.

Ahead of the formal submission of the city’s bid to win the honour for 2023, the bid team made public some of the detail of the plan it intends to use to try and win over judges.

These will include plans for a new park in the South Bank development of Leeds, an additional 2,500 hotel beds and a redevelopment of City Square.

The Lighthouse project would see a full-sized and working lighthouse built in a newly-created park in the South Bank area.

It would host live events and music in the summer and light installations in the winter and be accessible to everyone, with a working light shining out across the city.

The lighthouse is also a nod to the city’s great civil engineer John Smeaton, whose designs for lighthouses are used across the world and were inspired by the shape of trees he grew up around in East Leeds in the 1700s.

Another plan is for a festival called I Predict A Riot, named after the hit from Leeds’s Kaiser Chiefs, which will be planned, curated and produced entirely by 15 year olds.

Elsewhere, an art project called Attack will be staged and is designed to bring together various housing estates from around Leeds.

Unveiling the plan at the Hyde Park Picture House, the team pledged to deliver a year-long programme which would involve people from the whole of the city, with plans for events in each of Leeds’s 33 council wards.

Built on the theme of Weaving Us Together, a nod to the city’s past as a textile epicentre, it is designed by organisers as a statement of intent to bring the entire city together as one.

Leeds City Council’s leader, Judith Blake, said: “We promised that this would be a bid for the whole city and we intend to deliver on that promise. “Culture can weave us together, celebrating our differences and tackling difficult issues that we face together as a city. This is the transformation at the heart of our bid to become European Capital of Culture 2023.

“The city’s bid for the title will create a lasting legacy for Leeds, embracing equality and tackling the disconnection of a two-tier city. Under the theme ‘Weaving Us Together’, Leeds 2023 will see activity across all 33 wards; we want to see people from across the city actively engaged, particularly those who might not think the arts is for them.”

Sharon Watson, chair of the Leeds 2023 Independent Steering Group, added: “It has been a phenomenal journey to get to this point and it’s only the start. The bid alone has given the city enormous benefits from increased investment in arts and culture to raising our profile nationally and internationally. We have put forward a bold, creative and ambitious artistic programme that will celebrate local artists, creators and producers alongside their international contemporaries, telling our story to the world.”

It is hoped a win for the city would bring significant economic benefit to the region. Liverpool reported a £750m economic impact for their year as host in 2008, and a surge in tourism. Liverpool was the second city in Britain to have won the accolade, along with Glasgow. The holders for 2017 are Aarhus in Denmark and Pathos in Cyprus.