Leeds 2023 year of culture will make a difference to people's lives - Baroness Judith Blake

Leeds 2023 will offer hope on the horizon and events in all parts of the city that will make a positive difference to people’s lives, writes Baroness Judith Blake.

By Judith Blake
Monday, 3rd January 2022, 12:05 pm
Updated Monday, 3rd January 2022, 12:06 pm

Twelve months from now, Leeds 2023 will begin its year-long celebration of culture and it’s something every one of us can look forward to.

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Baroness Judith Blake, a former leader of Leeds City Council. Picture: Simon Hulme

Our city has yet to gain recognition internationally for all that it achieves and its best champions are the people who call Leeds home. If only we could bottle that pride!

There isn’t a more passionate community and it’s wonderful to see so many Leeds people, including homegrown household names, coming together around Leeds 2023 to help position the city on the world’s stage.

The pandemic has shone a light on the importance of cultural activity in keeping us going. These are incredibly difficult times and the impacts on mental health are becoming obvious.

Leeds 2023 will offer not just hope on the horizon but tangible activities that will make a positive difference to people’s lives, helping to strengthen bonds in our communities.

It is about so much more than a year of great events, exciting though that promises to be. The legacy of 2023 matters and that means embedding culture into the life of the whole city: in education, youth projects, working across all ages and communities, accessible to all.

I’ve been fortunate to experience some of the remarkable community programmes run by many of Leeds’ arts organisations.

Opera North’s In Harmony project at Windmill Primary School in Belle Isle has had an extraordinary impact. As a result of every child and every member of staff learning a stringed instrument, the academic attainment of the children has vastly improved, as has parental engagement with the school.

Leeds 2023 is about creating opportunities for everyone to be involved in culture in their own area, and we’re seeing the benefits of the city’s investment now with creative projects already taking root in more than 20 Leeds communities.

The systematic reduction of arts subjects from the national curriculum is of deep concern, not just to me but to many in positions of leadership, including businesses across West Yorkshire. Leeds’ commitment to embedding culture at a grassroots level was a major draw for a company like Burberry to invest in Leeds and we want more companies to do the same.

With 2023 just a year away, we must give businesses confidence that a brighter future is on the horizon. We can expect a boost to visitor numbers of at least 10 per cent in 2023 and it’s this kind of boost that’s needed by our battered hospitality and entertainment sectors.

For every £1 invested in Leeds 2023, research shows an anticipated return of £6 into the local economy and, thanks to Leeds 2023, the wider West Yorkshire region is expected to gain a £49m annual boost to its visitor economy, as well as generating a wide range of jobs and opportunities to develop the region’s skills.

The importance of sport in the culture of our city can’t be underestimated. We’re lucky that our world-class athletes, clubs and teams are grounded in their local communities, so that the big one-off events are not just memorable in their own right but they’re enhancing our city and our lives.

As with sports, culture brings people together around a shared activity and that’s where the magic happens, linking us together.

We’re all ready for some joy in our lives and Leeds 2023 will give us a year packed with ways to come together and to have fun! That’s something we can all sign up to and I, for one, can’t wait.

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