Connecting the city through culture and creativity
This project was awarded the 'EUROCITIES Awards' in 2018 in the following category: Cooperation.
The City of Leeds has long believed that culture and creativity have a powerful impact on the city’s ability to thrive and grow. In 2000 it enshrined this thinking in its cultural strategy to ensure its strong creative heritage plays a pivotal role in its future. By 2013, however, the city administration acknowledged it was not maximising the benefits of its creative industry clusters and grassroots activity. Through a bid for the European City of Culture, the city aimed to realise the full range of these benefits, from building sustainable job growth to making the city more visible as a cultural hotspot.
After submitting an 80-page document and four days before representatives of the City Council were due to meet with the selection panel, the European Commission announced that following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union the participation of UK cities in the European Capital of Culture will not be possible.
Leeds City Council decided unanimously to continue the movement for change it had started. Making the most of learnings from the city-wide conversations and the energy and enthusiasm behind the bid, it developed a new cultural programme, Leeds 2023.
There were three primary objectives from the people-led bid development process.
- The project must be for everyone in the city and not just cultural and business interests.
- The project must address major inequalities in citizens’ access to culture and cultural expression.
- The project, at its core, must be a holistic approach to engaging young people - the city’s future creative workforce and cultural audience.
The lead agency for the project is the City of Leeds. Securing funding from partner organisations to develop specific initiatives has been vital to the programme. Having had to move away from the European City of Culture funding model at a time of austerity and budget cuts in the UK, Leeds 2023 had to be inventive and persuasive. The programme expects to be able to raise a total of £35m over the course of its six years.
The committed partnerships, inspirational individuals and strong coordination behind these and all the other Leeds 2023 initiatives are a direct result of the city’s success in igniting public interest in its vision and galvanising action. Public meetings, face-to-face conversations, social media and a committed steering committee chair all played their part. So too did the city’s transparent approach to the original bid, which it developed inclusively and published openly.
Leeds 2023 - culture for transformation, Connecting the city through culture and creativity, EUROCITIES Cities in action, November 2018