Culture is key to re-building communities across Leeds who have been "shut away" as plans for LEEDS 2023 progress

Culture is about so much more than "watching something" as Leeds looks forward to a financial boost over the next ten years worth more than £140m.

Saturday, 7th August 2021, 4:45 am

Despite Britain's departure from EU bringing Leeds' bid to be the European Capital of Culture in 2023 to an abrupt end, the city has been pursuing a programme of events for LEEDS 2023 that will make up a year long celebration of arts, culture and experiences from pop to architecture, to music, sport and even plays being performed on double decker buses.

There will be events in the 'usual' places such as stages, theatres and prominent venues in the city centre, but, also where you might least expect so that people from all communities and backgrounds in Leeds can take part and enjoy.

The programme of events is constantly evolving and being added to, but will bring to all parts of Leeds, opportunities, performances and experiences they might not otherwise have had access to.

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Leeds has ramped up its cultural offer in recent years. Last October 'Laser Night' was held instead of Light Night Leeds due to COVID, however it is set to return this Autumn.

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The closing dates are in September and this month, open sessions are being held where budding artists can sign up to find out more about the programmes.

A report has suggested that Leeds 2023 can increase visitor numbers to the city by ten per cent, compared to four per cent without, generate £114m of extra direct and indirect revenue to the Leeds visitor economy in 2023, rising to just over £140m by 2030, create 1,310 new jobs in 2023, rising to 1,620 by 2030 and bring in an anticipated return on investment of 8:1 for West Yorkshire and 6:1 for Leeds.

Coun Jonathan Pryor, is the deputy leader of Leeds City Council and the Executive Member for Economy, Culture and Education.

The Leeds 2023 team. Abigail Scott Paul (director of external relations); Kully Thiarai (creative director); Mark Hollander (executive director).

He told the Yorkshire Evening Post: "The world of culture, it is so expansive and covers so much, so many different organisations, so many talents and jobs. There is really something for everyone and for every community to get involved."

"Over the past year we have been shut away, been under unimaginable stress and we did what we needed to get through - music, tv, film - they are all aspects of culture."

In addition to the well-being culture can create, it is becoming more important to the economy, especially with Leeds being home to thousands of creative businesses and organisations - not least Channel 4 which is set to officially open its Leeds office next month.

Coun Pryor added: "Sometimes culture gets dismissed when actually it is so much more than that. It plays a vital role in things like mental health, combatting isolation, community cohesion - it is so much more than just watching something. Then there are countless jobs behind them in the supply chains. When you look at Leeds 2023 think of the thousands of freelance jobs, new opportunities, new placements.

Coun Jonathan Pryor, Cabinet Member for Economy, Culture & Education and Deputy Leader of Leeds City Council.

"It is not just about culture, it is about jobs and the economy. As a council we fund services, if we are not supporting people into jobs, they will not pay council tax and keep everything going."

Leeds City Council has in the past come under fire from the opposition for spending on its culture fund while other services are cut, such as the closure of two care homes, due to budget concerns.

When asked what aspect of LEEDS 2023 he was most looking forward to, he added: "The thing I am really excited about is how people will respond to it. There are 12 big set pieces but also stuff that communities can get involved in and enjoy. We have been through a rough time, so people expressing themselves after that period will be great to see and it will really bring the city together. It is something we really need at the moment, we need people to come together and LEEDS 2023 can offer that opportunity."