Leeds is bidding to be European Capital of Culture for 2023!

It’s been months since I’ve blogged, having moved house recently I’ve been caught up in all the drama that can bring, there’s been no inspiration to write. However last week a colleague told me about Leeds’ bid to be European Capital of Culture for 2023, and since Leeds is now my home town, I feel it’s a perfect time to get tapping at the keyboard again so I can tell you all about it.

As any UK residents reading this will know, Hull is currently the UK capital of Culture, but not to be outdone by our neighbours, Leeds is looking to celebrate on an international level, while making connections with our European counterparts. ‘But what about Brexit?’ I hear you cry. Never fear for the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) has already proclaimed that the UK will host in 2023 despite Britain voting to leave the EU.

Sharon Watson Chair of the Leeds 2023 Independent Steering Group launches the Leeds bid

Image credit: Chris Payne

Each year two or three European nations get the chance to enter their cities in the competition. For 2023 the countries who will take part are the UK and Hungary. One city from each nation will be chosen as a host. Leeds will be facing competition from Dundee, Milton Keynes, and a consortium of  Belfast, Derry, and Strabane, and possibly more who will not be revealed until 27th October 2017 when all bids are submitted.

Previously in Britain European Capital of Culture has been awarded to Glasgow in 1990, and more recently, to Liverpool in 2008. Reports on the legacy of the title for Liverpool reveal a 34% surge in visitors during 2008 that gave the cities economy a healthy boost of £753.8 million. More than money though, their time as Capital of Culture boosted the morale of the people of Liverpool, 85% of whom felt the city had become a better place since 2008. It was this success that inspired the idea of having a British Capital of Culture, to aid urban regeneration. An idea we now see coming to fruition in Hull.

Leeds Launches Bid for European Capital of Culture Title 3

Leeds will aim to emphasis the diversity of its culture. Image credit: Chris Payne

The key objective for both variations of the competition is to raise awareness of the varying culture offerings of different cities whether across Europe or across the UK. In Britain there is a pervasive mind set that London is the only cultural centre, and that nothing of importance happens outside of it. Unfortunately there is some truth to this as other cities simply don’t have the funding, infrastructure, resources or ability to attract visitors in search of cultural succor that the capital can achieve. However these competitions are here to change that.

I remember when Liverpool, a city you never really heard about except as a football team, or in passing as the home of the Beatles, became European Capital of Culture. Suddenly there was regular news coverage of all these exciting things happening, people were talking about the spectacular architecture, about the history of the docks, it was no longer viewed as down on its luck, rough and declining. Through the arts people saw the potential for it to adapt to a contemporary life without the heavy industry it had previously relied on.

I wouldn’t say that Leeds has the negative reputation that Liverpool did, but I don’t believe outsiders are aware of all the cultural events on offer here. I don’t think I’m even aware of them all. It’s not just about the city centre either, planners of the event have promised the year will embrace the greater Leeds area, so that towns and villages will also benefit. Many cultural events in the area take part in these more rural locations so it’s good to know they will be included.


Park and Play project to bring art to Victoria gardens alongside the Art Galleries

Some projects are already on the go, with the regeneration of The South Bank due to be completed in 2023, which will see the city centre double in size and will include a new park to add a touch of green to the urban landscape. The Leeds Art Gallery is also in the process of a major refurbishment, and is expected to reopen in October 2017.  If Leeds were to win the bid many more exciting cultural regeneration projects could be set in motion, so we all need to help spread the word.

If you would like to help the Leeds bid effort, head over to http://leeds2023.co.uk/shout/ to pledge your support.


To learn more about the benefits of European Capital of Culture for Liverpool see the links below:




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