Leeds 2023 chairwoman is announced - and she has big ideas for arts and culture in the city

Ruth Pitt at Merrion House in Leeds.
Ruth Pitt at Merrion House in Leeds.

Leeds should be a globally recognised hive of culture for everyone, according to the chairwoman of new trust set to deliver a landmark year of arts and activities across the city.

Media executive and former journalist Ruth Pitt has today been announced as the person who will lead the Leeds 2023 team, an idea which was formed after the fall-out of British cities being denied future qualification for the European Capital of Culture brand.
The £35 million 2023 cultural programme will bring events and activities to the city over the next five years.

The Trust will advertise for additional board members in the new year and aims to recruit a creative director by spring 2019.

Ms Pitt, who now lives in Ilkley after spending 25 years in Oakwood, recently played a key part in the successful bid to bring Channel 4 to Leeds.

The mother-of-three’s new role does not begin until April, but she already has a vision for Leeds which would see it be recognised alongside other northern cultural powerhouses such as Manchester and Liverpool.

She said: “We don’t shout about ourselves a lot but I think we’ve got a lot to say – this is where we go up a gear and shout out about what we’re doing.

“There is so much going on. You only have to look at Quarry Hill.”

She cites Leeds Playhouse, Leeds College of Music and Holbeck’s Slung Low performance group as some of the highlights the city is offering at the moment, and believes that with the future of Channel 4 in the city and the ability of young people to use digital devices to express themselves will bring huge benefits.

“Leeds deserves to be flying along with the very best cultural destinations in the world,” she said.

Ms Pitt said she is committed to making sure the 2023 project will provide something for everyone in Leeds, and not just focus on the city centre.

Although she admits that the European Capital of Culture exclusion for British cities – a consequence of Brexit – was a “tragedy”, she is inspired by the resolve to press ahead with 2023 regardless.

She said: “It’s almost like, ‘Right, we’re going to show you. We’re going to prove to the world that we’ve got world class culture’.

“We sort of know what the voice of Manchester, and we know what the voice of Liverpool is.

“We need to find the voice of Leeds.”