Broadcaster and former Leeds United footballer Sanchez Payne on the talent waiting to be discovered during Leeds 2023 year of culture

Broadcaster and former Leeds United footballer Sanchez Payne reflects on his role as a trustee for the Leeds 2023 year of culture.

By Sanchez Payne
Monday, 6th June 2022, 11:45 am

I’ve been on a long journey with Leeds 2023, perhaps longer than most, with my involvement going back to the days of the original Leeds European Capital of Culture bid.

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Back then, I started out as part of a local focus group and I remember we were due to go down to present our bid on the Saturday and found out on the Thursday night we were no longer eligible because of Brexit. It was a real gut-wrenching moment.

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Broadcaster and former Leeds United footballer Sanchez Payne.

But I’ve always been a 'glass half full' guy and I honestly believe that everything happens for a reason. That decision so many years ago paved the way for Leeds 2023 and we have even more opportunities to look forward to as we are free to go our own way.

Even now, all those years later, my role on the Leeds 2023 board is still to be the local voice and the feet on the ground, looking at decisions we’re making, how they relate to people, how it affects them or how they will receive it.

Being a trustee means working with so many talented people and, initially, I had imposter syndrome - I’m a young black man from Chapeltown so what am I doing here? But over time I came to realise I do belong here and I’m bringing a different level of experience and insight to the board that’s just as important as all the other contributions.

Personally, I know I’ve been incredibly lucky to enjoy two dream careers when most people would be happy with just one.

My first was as a professional footballer when I signed with Leeds United and even trained with the England squad. This opened me up to new experiences, travelling and playing against top teams.

I came so close, literally sat on the subs bench at Elland Road smelling the grass, but I just didn’t make that final transition.

It was hard at the time but I’ve no regrets at all. You move on, then another opportunity comes along and that led me to a new career in broadcasting.

Leeds 2023 is all about opportunity. When those moments happen, you might not even know it at the time but it can change everything. That’s what Leeds 2023 can offer every single person across the city.

It could be someone who is involved in the marketing or advertising side, an artist who’s producing something or a performer who’s going to be part of an event. You never know what will come out of it, who could be watching or where it will take you.

After I finished in football, I worked in Ibiza as a VIP host making great contacts, but it was one chance encounter that opened up my career in broadcasting.

I was hosting a local event for unsigned talent and there was a producer in the audience who saw me. That was my big break… so you never know what’s around the corner.

Leeds 2023 will be an opportunity to showcase some amazing talent out there and not only that, it will also provide a lasting legacy for the city.

There will be events for anyone and everyone to get involved in, either as part of the team, part of a performance or part of the audience.

I’m so excited about the Leeds 2023 programme and, for me, it’s the inclusivity that really stands out.

I grew up in Chapeltown and I know there’s so much potential waiting to be discovered there, so imagine the culture and creativity we have to tap into across the whole city.

I can’t wait for Leeds 2023 to start. I want to see as many people join in from all walks of life, bringing them together and being part of this amazing year.