Leeds 2023: Hopes year of culture will stop London 'brain drain' as city 'already seeing economic benefit'
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Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive member for culture, said there would be a local long-term boost to jobs in the arts.
Leeds is hosting its own Year of Culture this year, while Bradford will become the official UK City of Culture in 2025. Kirklees is currently hosting a Year of Music, while Wakefield and Calderdale will stage their own cultural festivals in 2024.
Leeds 2023 has been attacked by opposition councillors for a lack of impact, as one senior figure recently suggested the event may prove to be a “damp squib”.
But speaking at a scrutiny meeting on Monday, Councillor Pryor said international coverage of the festival would attract business investment in Leeds.
He said: “Particularly in the cultural sector and for those who work in dance, theatre and television production, there’s a massive issue where there’s been a brain drain to London.
“A lot of younger people will think if they want to work in the arts they’ve got to move to London. Actually, what we’re showing with Leeds 2023, Bradford 2025 and the other events in West Yorkshire is that jobs can be provided here.
“Hopefully over time we’ll prevent that drain and make sure people can be employed here.
“There’s a cultural benefit, but there’s an economic benefit which we’re starrting to see forming and seeing the legacy of already.”
But Liberal Democrat councillor Diane Chapman, who represents Rothwell, said the experience of Leeds’ outskirts “seems to be very different”.
She told the meeting: “There’s been very little advertising about it (in Rothwell).
“I just think we’ve missed a huge opportunity in our local areas to benefit from everything else that’s going on with Leeds 2023.
“The city might benefit. It sounds as though we’ve got legacies going to cities outside of Leeds, yet I don’t think our wards are benefiting in anything like the way they could have done.”
But Councillor Pryor said he “disagreed entirely” with that suggestion.
He said recent events in the likes of Otley and Adel and Wharfedale had been enthusiastically attended by hundreds of people.
“I don’t accept your characterisation that there’s a difference between the inner and outer wards,” he replied. “If there’s a specific issue with one ward I’m happy to pick that up but I don’t think you can extrapolate that across the whole city.”