LEEDS could soon be joining the premier league of global cultural hotspots.
After 14 months of talks, and a groundswell of support which has built momentum day by day, the city WILL bid to become the European Capital of Culture in 2028.
Council bosses are set to sign off the start of the application process at a meeting next week.
And it is hoped it will kickstart a journey which will culminate in a glorious year of activities showcasing the best of the city’s cultural and creative offerings.
Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, Leeds City Council’s executive member for culture, said: “We have decided after 14 months of consultation that the council will back a bid to look at becoming European Capital of Culture in 2023. We knew it could be something that would grab people’s imagination.
“The response has just been fantastic. There’s certainly the desire from the city to go for it – it shows where our ambition lies as a city.
“There are obviously a lot of questions around how it will be funded and what this actually means.
“And it’s not just about us having a fancy title, If we are to do it, then it’s about how it will impact people - and bringing positivity and ambition to our city. But we are very excited.”
Should the city win the bid, it is thought that the council would be expected to make a minimum commitment of 20 million Euros (£14m) to host the year.
Major support would likely come from private sector sponsorship and other funding streams like the Lottery - and the potential benefits to the local economy are expected to dwarf the running costs.
When Liverpool held the accolade in 2008, it generated £753.8m for the economy and saw 9.7m visitors come to the city, an increase of 34 per cent.
Last year’s Tour de France Grand Depart cost the council £3.8m to organise - but generated around £100m for the regional economy,
The decision to officially back the bid follows a year of intense talks and debate, which has galvanised people across the city, from the top level to the grass roots.
Thousands of people voted in the positive, with 94 per cent of young people and 77 per cent of total respondents to a council consultation supporting the idea.
Councillor Yeadon said: “We were always determined from day one that whilst a bid and the potential benefits to communities and residents would be appealing, we had to look at it very much from the head as well as the heart.
“An absolute priority to us was to hear the thoughts of as many residents as possible from all backgrounds and cultures, and I am delighted to say that the overwhelming majority of responses we received were positive.
“This has given us the confidence that if Leeds were to put itself in the hat to bid, the support is there from a vast number of city partners, groups, organisations and residents who will all have massive part to play to make this ambition of becoming the 2023 European Capital of Culture a reality.”
After the council’s cabinet debates, and - as is expected - rubber-stamps the bid next week, an expression of interest must be submitted by December 2016, with a further and final bid submitted by December 2017. A decision is expected in 2018.
Councillor Yeadon added: “The hard work will start straight away as we move forward on the groundwork.
“We have tried to be as transparent as possible around the issue of cost whilst not wanting to reveal to any of our competitors the secrets of Leeds’ bid!
“We know especially in these testing times that every penny counts but the experience of previous host cities shows us that successful bids attract funding from a whole range of individuals and organisations who are all keen to get a piece of this exciting once in a generation city event.”
Leeds will battle it out with other UK cities to host the title in eight years’ time, however the city has been the only one so far to openly state its case for 2023.
COST OF PUTTING ON A YEAR OF CULTURE
The council would be expected to commit to spending a minimum of 20 million Euros - around £14m at current rates - to put on the year of events.
However the authority is pledging to pursue “a range of funding streams and avenues” to meet the costs of hosting the title.
These would be likely to include Arts Council England, Lottery distributors, private sector sponsorship (local and national) trusts and foundations, LEP European funding, earning income and philanthropy.
The city’s universities have already pledged financial and in-kind support.
The University of Leeds will provide £75,000 a year for the next three years through the bid process.
Leeds Beckett University will donate the expertise of staff who are already experienced in bidding for European cultural funding.
THE PASSION WAS EVIDENT FROM THE START...BUT THE REAL WORK BEGINS NOW
It all started with what could easily have been interpreted as a pie in the sky talking shop.
But from the day the idea of Leeds aiming for the prestigious title was launched at a meeting at the Town Hall more than a year ago, bid fever has gripped large swathes of the city and its artistic communities.
The passion was evident from the early discussions, as culture vultures, creative people and decision-makers sat around tables and shared their love for the city’s vast theatrical, artistic, musical and literary offerings.
In many ways, the point we have now reached seemed inevitable. But as councillor Lucinda Yeadon pointed out, “we are not counting our chickens”.
She said there would be a focus on using the available time to build partnerships and secure funding support,
Cluny MacPherson, chief officer for culture, said the city now has 18 months to start writing the bid, and sort out the “nitty gritty”, which includes drafting a brand new cultural strategy.
But he stressed that as much as winning the accolade, it was about “telling the city’s story - and where we are going”.
“This has to be something for the whole of Leeds,” he said.
Many of the city’s cultural institutions have already pledged their support for the bid, including the big hitters and scores of grassroots arts groups.
Mark Skipper, chief executive of Northern Ballet, said very few cities in the UK could rival Leeds’s rich cultural offerings.
Backing the bid was a “no lose situation”, he added, and the process alone would do a huge amount to improve the city’s international image.
He said Northern Ballet had come to Leeds almost 20 years ago because of the promise of its vibrant artistic scene, and that promise had delivered in abundance
He added Leeds’s “phenomenal wealth” of cultural offerings was unrivalled by any other UK city apart from London.