Leeds 2023: How business can shine by harnessing culture

Aimee Bowman, head of development at Leeds 2023, writes here for the Yorkshire Evening Post.

Sunday, 8th August 2021, 11:45 am
Leeds 2023 is working with schools across the city. Picture: Ant Robling.

What is it about culture?

Growing up in Leeds, for me culture was the beating heart of this city.

It sparked something within me that has never gone away.

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The electricity in the air of an auditorium, waiting for the curtain to rise; the fear and elation of being on the other side of the curtain before a performance.

And those more everyday, most treasured moments of my dad strumming his guitar to the The Beatles Songbook whilst I sang along.

The dreadful squeaks of my recorder and screech of my violin, the repetitive strains of Stranger on the Shore emanating from my sister’s clarinet c.1987.

That something in me defied the well-meaning teacher that took me aside aged 16 and told me “don’t study performing arts, stay at school instead.”

And then the friends I met.

Misfits brought together, feeling understood for maybe the first time.

I was lucky to be exposed to culture in all its forms, thanks to my parents.

It’s not the same for everyone and we might not always recognise culture for what it is but it’s there.

We sing. We dance. We chant in unison. We celebrate. We remember. We honour. We commemorate. And through it, we feel.

And what is it about Yorkshire?

That innate sense of belonging, of being from Yorkshire first and foremost.

We know it’s bloomin’ brilliant but we don’t like to brag (apart from dedicating one day per year to unashamedly indulge in it).

It’s just quietly there, within us – that comforting sense of home.

It never left me throughout the 20 years I lived away. Its warmth and heart drew me back.

As Head of Development for LEEDS 2023, my role involves building relationships with people who want to enable positive transformations, to ensure we have the funding to make our Year of Culture happen.

Creating genuine collaborations with people who want to do something more than pay an invoice in return for a logo. T

ogether we create something greater than the sum of its parts: true partnerships with likeminded people and a shared ambition to make the world a better place, even in a small way.

Yes, it’s about meeting business objectives.

Without a doubt, the figures need to stack up (good news: independent economic analysis by BOP Consulting forecasts that LEEDS 2023 can achieve a 6 to 1 return on investment for Leeds and 8 to 1 for the wider West Yorkshire region).

And we absolutely want to enable local businesses to shine, and to demonstrate concrete outcomes that benefit the bottom line.

But it’s also about heart.

That sense of everyone in Leeds coming together to get this city back thriving again after recent tough times.

What if we could bring all that together: the unifying effect of culture; that great pride for our city and our county; and the genuine desire to build greater things together for the region, now and for future generations?

Now that’s powerful stuff.

Will you join us?

To find out how to support, log on to: www.leeds2023.co.uk/getinvolved/become-a-leeds-2023-supporter