Leeds is ready for its time in the limelight

The city of Leeds is about to let loose its best cultural champions as it ramps up the search to form a programme of culture for 2023.
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LEEDS 2023’s ‘Letting Culture Loose’ campaign is being launched later today and has got the backing of some of the city's famous faces from the cultural and arts sector such as singer songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae and Simon Rix of the Kaiser Chiefs.

The virtual event, being hosted from Left Bank Leeds will reveal that the year-long celebration - the first large-scale event of its kind in the city region - will feature 12 signature events of international significance and a multitude of events in partnership with artists and organisations, engaging both Leeds’ residents and visitors to the city.

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The new mantra aims to dispel any narrow definitions and barriers to art and culture, unlocking opportunities for every child and resident in all 33 Leeds wards to be part of 365 days of cultural celebrations that will see Leeds' future transformed.

Laser Light City - an interactive light installation.Laser Light City - an interactive light installation.
Laser Light City - an interactive light installation.

Leeds Culture Trust, the charity behind Leeds 2023, is launching ‘Letting Culture Loose’ to champion all forms of creativity that take place every day in Leeds’s diverse communities; working to uncover the hidden, unconventional, unusual stories and unsung heroes that ultimately will form part of a new narrative for a city whose time in the limelight is long overdue.

It is also estimated that a 2023 designated culture programme has potential to create £114m of extra direct and indirect revenue to the Leeds visitor economy for that year alone, rising to just over £140m by 2030, in addition to creating 1,310 new jobs in 2023, rising to 1,620 by 2030.

Kully Thiarai, Creative Director and Chief Executive LEEDS 2023 said: “We want everyone to have the opportunity to be part of our year of culture; there is so much to showcase to the world about the city, its people and its creativity. I’m excited that today we are able to share some of the ways we will do that.

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“LEEDS 2023 is all about ‘letting culture loose’ and being completely open to any and all ideas that emerge, involving as many local people as possible in this crucial and exciting stage. Our imagination enables us all to be storytellers. Creativity is in all of us, sometimes we just need to be guided to re-connect with that bit of ourselves that wants to joyfully and curiously play and dream. LEEDS 2023 creates an opportunity for us all to come together and collectively do this."

Kully Thiarai, Creative Director and Chief Executive LEEDS 2023Kully Thiarai, Creative Director and Chief Executive LEEDS 2023
Kully Thiarai, Creative Director and Chief Executive LEEDS 2023

It will also be announced that in order to help accelerate the cultural sector’s recovery from the pandemic, is a new programme of commissions from 23 artists who will work in 23 communities of Leeds in a project called ‘My World, My City, My Neighbourhood’. The aim is that they work alongside local communities, representative of the cultural diversity of the city and its 170 languages, to imagine and test new ideas that could lead to projects in 2023.

LEEDS 2023 is also offering seed commissions to artists in the city to develop new ideas for the year of culture.

Prior to today's launch, LEEDS 2023 asked a selection of local artists and community organisations to let culture loose in a series of surprising new commissions to coincide with its latest announcements.

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Projects include two new sculptures to be sited in the community, a roaming photography studio capturing photos of the people of Leeds, and a special day-long broadcast from one of the city’s favourite indie radio stations, Sable Radio.

Simon Rix of the Kaiser Chiefs.Simon Rix of the Kaiser Chiefs.
Simon Rix of the Kaiser Chiefs.

Leeds’s own cultural stars have also given their backing to the idea. Internationally acclaimed singer songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae and Simon Rix, bassist with Kaiser Chiefs, winners of Brit awards and Ivor Novello awards, have signed up as patrons of LEEDS 2023, joining patron and Poet Laureate Simon Armitage.

Ms Thiarai added: “LEEDS 2023 will be a catalyst for transformation; one that brings people together to participate, celebrate and see the world afresh. It also will be a massive team effort locally, regionally, nationally and internationally and I’m thrilled to welcome our latest patrons Corinne Bailey Rae and Simon Rix whose backing is a big vote of confidence in our vision for LEEDS 2023 and all that we are trying to do.”

Leeds started its cultural journey years ago when an independent steering group was set up by Leeds City Council to progress the city’s bid for European Capital of Culture 2023 status. However, following the Brexit referendum and cancellation of UK cities’ entry into the competition, Leeds made a commitment to a six-year cultural investment programme, culminating in a year of culture in 2023.

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Coun James Lewis, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “We have been on quite a journey with LEEDS 2023 as together we’ve watched this bold, ambitious project grow and evolve. What has always remained constant though, is the shared vision to put the imaginative and creative people of Leeds at the heart of what will be a landmark celebration of everything that makes this city such a unique and inspiring place.

“I’m delighted to see this continuing and for the latest step towards LEEDS 2023 to be so focussed on ensuring our communities are given the spotlight and recognition they so richly deserve after the toughest of years. Working closely with the talented team at LEEDS 2023, we’re looking forward to seeing the city’s incredible stories told and to the power of culture in bringing Leeds together in a whole new way.”

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