LEEDS 2023: How university students in Leeds can help shape culture

Nivetha Tilakkumar, Communications and Engagement Officer at LEEDS 2023, writes here for the YEP.

Sunday, 26th September 2021, 11:45 am
The Where Are You From exibition. Picture: Mary (@maryimages).

September is the real start of the year for students up and down the country.

Over the past few weeks they’ve been cramming their belongings into cars, waving goodbye to families, meeting new flatmates, and finding their way in unfamiliar cities.

I wasn’t born and bred in Leeds - I moved here when I started my degree at the University of Leeds in 2016, and I remember feeling out of my depth.

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I’d moved from London to a city I didn’t know, and I felt so far from my family and my community back home.

In fact, I almost dropped out of my first year because I thought I couldn’t hack it, but the culture and vibrancy of Leeds ignited something within me that willed me to stay.

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I’m living and working in Leeds and have started a new job as Communications and Engagement Officer at LEEDS 2023.

My role is to find out what different communities want from culture in our city, and students are a huge part of that.

There are tens of thousands of students in Leeds, but their voices are often ignored because they’re seen as transient members of the community.

They contribute so much to the culture here in Leeds and a lot of them, like me, stay when their degrees are over.

When I was a student, it was my peers that were making cultural waves.

I was involved in scenes for creative People of Colour and Queer spaces, and it was in these spaces that I was encouraged to start performing poetry and to start making cooking more than a hobby.

It always felt like a safe space to be in because this was where I found my people.

I feel I owe it to the students running these spaces that have shaped my future to hear and understand their voices.

We’re lucky to have so many incredible higher and further education establishments in Leeds and we’re working with them to put student voices front and centre, offer outlets for their creativity and to help us understand the impact of our work.

For instance, the Frontiers Institute at the University of Leeds is supporting us around the research for our ‘My World, My City, My Neighbourhood’ community project; we’ve just done a project with Leeds Arts University graduates around illustration and we’re having some exciting conversations with

Leeds Beckett University and Leeds Trinity University about how we can work together in the future too.

We’re also passionate about the city’s young people shaping our year of culture.

The Leeds Digital Festival is back until Friday October 1 and we’re working with Leeds City College and their students to host a Game Jam which runs until this Thursday September 30.

It’s for people to test out ideas for a digital artwork or video game and is a great way to engage young people in digital creativity.

We want to create even more ways for young people to get involved.

So, if you are interested in seeing what we are doing with students and universities around the city, click here.