#YesLeeds: Let’s shine the spotlight on our city

Dress rehearsals for Opera North's 'The Bartered Bride' at Leeds Grand Theatre.
Dress rehearsals for Opera North's 'The Bartered Bride' at Leeds Grand Theatre.
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The Yorkshire Evening Post is today championing Leeds to definitely put in a bid to be named the European Capital of Culture in 2023. Laura Bowyer reports.

Leeds could be poised to follow in the footsteps of Berlin, Athens, Paris and Liverpool.

A detailed consultation is currently ongoing to see whether the city should present a bid to be named a European Capital of Culture.

And today the Yorkshire Evening Post is throwing its support behind a potential bid which would firmly thrust the global spotlight on Leeds.

It is one of the only cities outside London to have its very own opera company plus a whole host of dance companies.

And it is claimed that Leeds Art Gallery loans out more pieces of work than the Tate.

The city is also the proud owner of one of the oldest carnivals in Europe.

And we are throwing our support behind showcasing our city’s cultural offerings to an international stage.

A detailed consultation is currently ongoing to see whether Leeds should put forward a case to present a bid for the right to host a year of cultural events.

Residents and communities from every corner of the city are being encouraged to make their voices heard as part of an ongoing conversation.

A recent web poll by this newspaper revealed that more than 60 per cent of respondents were in favour of Leeds making a bid for the prestigious title.

And for cities such as Liverpool, which was named European Capital of Culture in 2008, the benefits have been huge.

A total audience of nearly 10 million people flooded into the city in 2008 during the year long festival.

Over 18 million people accessed the city across the four years of the programme, which was officially started in 2005.

And the title is thought to have generated an additional economic impact of more than £753m for Liverpool.

Statistics also claim that around 85 per cent of people said it was a better place to live than before the bid was made.

Claire McColgan, director of culture for Liverpool, said the title has had a lasting impact on the city and helped to spark regeneration.

She said: “I don’t think any other city has had such a transformation after being named European Capital of Culture.

“It helped to give the city its confidence back and it has changed so much in the last 13 years.

“More than anything the title helped to give the city its mojo back.

“There are some big announcements ahead for Liverpool and the title has encouraged the city to really build on that sense of success.”

And Claire, who was the executive producer of the city’s bid, said that the bidding process was one of the best parts in the journey of winning the prestigious title.

She said: “It is chance for the city to think about what you really want to be.

“What was really great about Liverpool was that everyone came together to decide what it was going to be.

“The bid gives you a collective sense of what is achievable.

“Bidding is a joy and everyone who loves their city is proud of it and wants it to be the best it can be.

“You are creating something that is a legacy for future generations of your city.

“That legacy is a renewed confidence in the city from both investors and the people themselves.

“The European Capital of Culture win for Liverpool and the success we have had has enabled us to take bigger steps forward around the cultural sector.

“Each city has to make it their own bid and what is important is as a city you have to create a compelling narrative.”

A recent report to Leeds City Council’s Sustainable Economy and Culture Scrutiny Board said the success of the Grand Depart for the Tour de France showed that Leeds has the capability of delivering a major event.

The local authority’s executive board will receive a report and recommendation in February outlining the results of the consultation.

The dossier will also recommend whether or not the city should make a bid for the title.

Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, Leeds City Council executive for digital and creative technology, culture and skills, said the decision to put in a bid for Leeds needs to be made carefully.

“Personally, I think we have got so much to offer and it would be brilliant for Leeds to bid but that is me talking from the heart,” she said.

“The decision had to be made with our heads.

“We have got to make sure we have done all the maths and know what the costing for a bid would be.

“There has been a huge spectrum of different opinions but the majority of those have been supportive.

“It is all about making sure you are doing the right thing and people have been, quite rightly, challenging and we want to hear their opinions.”

And Coun Yeadon stressed that a bid would not be made solely by the local authority - particularly in the current economic climate.

She said the bid would rely on the support of a whole host of organisations and partnerships across the city.

She added that conversations have already seen partners across Leeds express an interest should a bid be submitted.

Coun Yeadon added: “The council could not do it on their own.

“The economic climate is at the forefront of everyone’s minds and even by having these conversations it means we are developing new partnerships.

“The journey of a potential bid needs to be just as important as whatever the formal decision is at the end of it.

“It has to be a positive experience no matter what the result is.

“I think Leeds has always been quite a resilient city.

“We know from previous years that the economic benefit to cities like Liverpool has been enormous.

“We don’t want to do this just for the title we want to make sure it has a positive impact on the people of Leeds.

“It is not a beauty competition.

“This has to be about Leeds as a whole rather than just the city centre.

“It has to be about how it will benefit local communities and reach out to all communities of Leeds.

“What we need to improve is how we tell people about what Leeds has.

“We are quite modest as a city and we don’t blow our own trumpet.”

Today the YEP is calling on communities, organisations and individuals to develop the conversation and discuss whether Leeds should present a bid.

We will be using the hashtag #YesLeeds on social media networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, to gather support from across the city, nationally and internationally for a potential bid.