Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council
Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council.

Leeds to replace Capital of Culture bid with £35m, six-year cultural programme

A £35m, six-year programme has been unveiled to replace the 2023 bid for European Capital of Culture for Leeds.

The programme will culminate in a year-long celebration of the city’s diverse cultures in 2023.

Leeds City Council will work with partners including Arts Council England and the private sector, to build a £35m fund for the programme, showcasing Leeds as “an outward looking, modern and innovative city, and deliver on the city’s promise to create an opportunity for the whole city which will be enjoyed across all 33 wards.”

This announcement is a result of the European Commission’s sudden move to cancel the 2023 European Capital of Culture competition.

Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council and Sharon Watson, chair of the 2023 Independent Steering Group, revealed how the plans outlined in the city’s bid book document will be moved forward.

The six-year programme will include a collaborative sculpture project ‘Yorkshire Sculpture International’ featuring work by international sculptors, public realm commissions and an engagement programme, delivered by Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle (Leeds Art Gallery, Henry Moore Institute, The Hepworth Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park) to take place in 2019, and again in 2023.

In addition, the city will see the launch of the Leeds Peoples Theatre, which will create a huge outdoor community performance in 2020, and again in 2023; as well as the Leeds Lighthouse, which has now secured an in-principal agreement with a local business to support its full costs.

Cllr Blake said: “Undoubtedly it was a huge blow when Leeds was denied the chance to bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2023. However, we have been determined not to see the unprecedented enthusiasm and energy which has built behind the bid go to waste and to create a strong and meaningful legacy across the whole city.

“The bid was a tremendous catalyst for a whole new cultural conversation across our city which in turn has sparked some incredibly original and inventive ideas from across our communities, artists, businesses and the public.

“We want to keep that momentum going and this cultural programme, a direct legacy of our bid, will see many of the ideas submitted in the Leeds 2023 bid brought together and channelled into a new and unique celebration of Leeds which will give the best of the city’s culture a chance to shine on a stage it deserves.”

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