Plans to bring another major sporting event to Leeds as city vows to carry on with year of culture bid

The Tour de Yorkshire finishes in Scarborough
The Tour de Yorkshire finishes in Scarborough
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A major sporting event could come to Leeds after business and civic leaders vowed to press ahead with plans for a year of cultural celebration despite Britain being excluded from the formal European Capital of Culture process.

Leeds was one of five UK cities in the running to be crowned Capital of Culture in 2023 until bureaucrats at the European Commission pulled the plug on Britain’s involvement at the 11th hour late last year.

However the appetite for a year shining a light on the cultural prowess of Leeds and the wider Yorkshire area remains high to the extent that political and commercial bosses feel it wise to carry on with the programme of events it had planned independent of the European competition.

And, now no longer confined by the rules set in place for the European Capital of Culture which are set out from Brussels, the city plans to bring sport into its proposition, with the prospect of bringing a major sporting event to Leeds as part of the year of celebrations something being carefully examined

Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake said: “We have written to all sponsors who engaged before {with the bid} asking for views and if they want to continue with the journey,

“We are holding an event on January 31 where we will make presentations. People are thinking how can we turn this into an opportunity.

Skyline of Leeds, in West Yorkshire, whereby later today Leeds City Council are debating whether to potentially bid for the title of European Capital of Culture.

Skyline of Leeds, in West Yorkshire, whereby later today Leeds City Council are debating whether to potentially bid for the title of European Capital of Culture.

“If it is our own event we can bring in sport for example which we could not do before with the EU Capital of Culture as it is not part of their remit.

“We are a go to place for major sporting events and have an international reputation. Looking at what is coming up and how we could run a cultural event alongside a sporting event is just one of the options.

“We feel momentum is building again.”

When asked how the city could fund the project without help from the European Union Coun Blake said that recent funding from Europe was not as generous as it had been previously for Capital of Culture bids and that she did not anticipate any significant additional public funding being spent on the independent bid than if it had won the formal bidding process.

Launch of the Leeds European Capital of Culture bid at the Hyde Park, Picture House, Leeds. Leader of Leeds City Council Judith Blake pictured. 10th October 2017. Picture by Simon Hulme

Launch of the Leeds European Capital of Culture bid at the Hyde Park, Picture House, Leeds. Leader of Leeds City Council Judith Blake pictured. 10th October 2017. Picture by Simon Hulme

Paula Dillon, president of Leeds Chamber of Commerce, said: “The Chamber, its members and the wider business community all recognise the potential that Capital of Culture bid, not just winning it, but bidding for had for making culture much more visible, much more impactful and really helping Leeds’s profile but also the wider regions.

“Certainly when you look at the interest and image of Hull, and that was just UK Capital of Culture, and what Leeds and surrounding areas could do with the cultural infrastructure that we have got here we should be able to knock it out of the park.

“As far as Leeds is concerned even when we were not prohibited from bidding but one of five in the bidding process there was Plan B in terms of doing our own thing if we did not win.

“We have done all the work of auditing what our cultural capital is. A lot of people were very pleasantly surprised and it gives us an opportunity to really define what our city’s image is, which a lot of people found really compelling.

Coun Judith Blake leader Leeds City Council 22nd june 2015  story Neal Hudson

Coun Judith Blake leader Leeds City Council 22nd june 2015 story Neal Hudson

They did not want to waste all of that.

“The business community is behind it in spirit but an awful lot of businesses put money behind it too, So I don’t think there is any doubt about the benefits that people see from doing this, not just for business but for enhancing the lives of everybody in the city.

If you look again at the feedback on Hull’s year, one of the really striking things is that they made it really inclusive. All of their events were massive success and not just with people who were ordinary consumers of the arts.

“There will be enough people who have got budget to spend who will still want to back it. But that will obviously depend on what they are being asked to back and I know people will not want to see that effort go to waste.

“I can’t say whether there is scope for it logistically but I do believe that when we were talking about in the context of our bid not being successful there was talk of 2020 of 2021, certainly it would be madness to do it in 2023 as we would have to compete with whoever is selected as the European city. “

James Hepburn, of Victoria gate owners Hammerson said: “I think we were all very disappointed when the UK was excluded from the European Capital of Culture. But the Bid really engaged the city’s business community and it seems such a lost opportunity not take advantage of that spirit and energy that has been created. So it makes total sense to continue with the 2023 bid ideas, albeit in isolation from the competition.

“And in all honestly this gives us the certainty to ahead with the bid, without the risk of competition.

“We have a fantastic city to showcase and making the city a destination for different reasons can only cement a bright future for Leeds.”