2023 will be ‘Leeds’s moment’, claims culture chief

The head of Leeds 2023 has claimed the coming years will be “Leeds’s moment”, as the city gears up to host 12 months of cultural events.

Sunday, 5th January 2020, 6:00 am

It follows a decision in 2017 that Leeds would not be allowed to run for the potentially lucrative European Capital of Culture title due to the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.

But the city wants to defy the odds to have a year-long cultural celebration in 2023 regardless, and the woman in charge of making it happen believes everyone in the city should benefit.

Chairwoman of the Leeds 2023 trust Ruth Pitt said: “It is all systems go and it will be just fantastic for the city – it really feels like this is Leeds’s moment. The city is buzzing.”

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Culture chair Ruth Pitt.

“Our ambition for 2023 is so big. We want to do deep engagement work across all our city to make sure everybody gets something valuable from this. We are really excited.

“The last six months have been quiet but we have been doing a lot of planning. We have been progressing relationships with arts and culture – we have been spending 2019 cementing relationships with groups across the city.”

Brussels officials confirmed back in November 2017 that a British city could not hold the European Capital of Culture title after the country leaves the European Union.

However, Leeds announced it would continue with a year of cultural activity in 2023 regardless of the setback, with around £35m expected to be spent on a year of cultural events across the city.

Leeds 2023 recently unveiled its board of trustees, bringing together expertise from arts, academia, business, marketing and sport.

The trust is also set to move to its new offices in Marshall Mill, Holbeck on Monday, while new creative director Kully Thiarai is also set to start next week.

On what to expect with the events, Ms Pitt said: “I think what we will be able to say for sure is that we will be planning a year of exciting events, exhibitions and performances.

“Because of the scale of them, they will take a long time to plan. This is a year long festival of culture, and in February, we will be formulating more detailed plans.”

She claimed the effects of the year-long celebration should be felt for long after 2023 in the city, adding: “If people forget that it ever happened, we will have failed.

“We want interest in different activities. We are not just about arts and culture, we are also about sport, which is also very important.

“We want every young person in the city to be reached in some way by this, but there is also so much untapped potential to build this region as a tourist destination.

“When you start making the arguments, you feel like this is the best place on earth!”

The trust says it hopes to have a business plan and “key funding partnerships progressed” by the spring, while detailed creative plans should be in place by summer 2020.