Leeds Rhinos assistant coach Jamie Jones Buchanan on why Leeds 2023 is a huge opportunity for city

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Leeds Rhinos assistant coach and former player Jamie Jones Buchanan, now a trustee on the Leeds 2023 board, shares his views on culture in our city.

I know most people will immediately associate me with rugby league and I have been extremely privileged to have been able to do something that I love as a career for the past 25 years. But that love of rugby and sports doesn’t mean there aren’t other exciting opportunities out there for me to know more about and get involved with.

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When I’ve been invited to speak at events there’s one fact I often like to put out there, that people are the only beings on this planet that can tell a story - we are the only ones who can pass on information and inspire across generations and cultures through story telling. That is an amazing gift and I don’t think we really appreciate how special that is.

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Jamie Jones Buchanan is best known as a player and assistant coach with Leeds Rhinos but is also a trustee on the Leeds 2023 board.Jamie Jones Buchanan is best known as a player and assistant coach with Leeds Rhinos but is also a trustee on the Leeds 2023 board.
Jamie Jones Buchanan is best known as a player and assistant coach with Leeds Rhinos but is also a trustee on the Leeds 2023 board.

A few years back I became involved in the Red Ladder Theatre Company and actually appeared in a play they produced called “Leeds Lads”. That opened up a whole new world of theatre and acting, and I saw the huge benefits it brings to those who take part, as well as the audiences and communities they reach.

I am now a Trustee of Red Ladder and it was this work in arts and culture that led me to joining Leeds 2023 as a Trustee. You never know what paths are going to unfold for you.

I’m a Leeds lad, I’ve lived here all my life and I have four boys who are growing up in Leeds. I don’t know if they will go on to play sport like I did, but what I want first and foremost for them is to have choices and feel they have more than one path they can follow.

Leeds as a city has this huge opportunity with Leeds 2023. We started out by going for the European Capital of Culture and when Brexit happened that door closed but Leeds in its boldness decided to go ahead anyway and forge its own path for arts and culture, and that turned out to be one of our biggest strengths.

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Because we were no longer constrained by the European City of Culture rules and parameters, the Leeds 2023 team were able to broaden the agenda of what they saw as important for the city. Sport was included for the first time in this type of cultural celebration which I think is really exciting.

One game day afternoon I was stood overlooking the South Stand at Headingley; I looked around me and just reflected on my own journey, how I got to where I am in life and how incredibly lucky I’ve been. Leeds has given me that.

I looked at the crowds, all there for one reason but coming from so many different backgrounds, circumstances and locations. Everyone has something to contribute and shouldn’t be scared of getting involved, having a voice or having a go.

I will be 40 next month, and like Leeds, I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my life and all that will bring. I want to give something back to the city that has given me so much and we all need something inspiring, now more than ever after Covid.

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I believe Leeds is ready to recover, rejuvenate and inspire so let’s all get behind the flag. Leeds United has been promoted and represented in the England football squad, we have boxer Josh Warrington flying high, Yorkshire Olympians poised to bring home medals from Tokyo.

All this goodwill combines and helps lift Leeds. With Leeds 2023, it can all become part of a much bigger cultural platform that relaunches the city on a national and global scale.

Some people are obsessed about returns on investment and sometimes that makes the benefits of culture hard to quantify, but how do you measure a feeling or an inspiration after seeing something or taking part in an event?

Culture gives so much more than just tangible returns and our communities will feel the benefits not just during 2023 but for many years afterwards. Leeds 2023 will help to accelerate the city’s recovery and allow people to unleash ideas and talents they didn’t know they had.

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Now is not the time to hold back, so let’s all get behind Leeds 2023 and make it the best possible advert for a city and its people that have so much to offer.

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