Leeds: Capital of Culture 2023?

Undaunted by Brexit, an independent group has launched Leeds’ momentous bid for the European title.

The Independent Steering Group has launched Leeds’ bid to become a European Capital of Culture by calling upon organisations and individuals to come together to submit their ideas to showcase the best of Leeds.

“In 2023, we want the eyes of the world on us. This is your opportunity to shape the future of your city” states the campaign website, www.leeds2023.co.uk.

The bid and website will give every resident of the city the chance to share their cultural and creative projects. They will be presented to a panel of European judges and, it is hoped,  secure Leeds’ victory.

Sharon Watson, chair of the Leeds 2023 Independent Steering Group said: “Today marks one of the most exciting milestones so far in our journey towards 2023 as we officially throw the bid open to the people of Leeds and ask them to tell us what they would like to see in a 365 day cultural programme.

“It has always been our ambition that people living and working in Leeds feel the bid is truly collaborative, that it belongs to them and they’ve been given a chance to shape and influence it each step of the way. That’s because we feel passionately that it’s those people at the heart of our communities who are best equipped to articulate the creativity and energy that makes Leeds a place where culture in all its many different forms can grow and flourish.”

A group of Leeds creatives, named Collective, 23 are coming together to propose a programme of events for 2023. Using their skills and connections they’ll create an artistic programme to put Leeds at the center of the race to win the bid.

In response to confusion over the bid’s feasibility following Brexit, the organisers have said: “We were worried about that too, but the Department for Culture Media & Sport (DCMS) announced that the UK would fulfil its obligation to host the competition as it will still be a member of the European Union until at least 2019 and will therefore participate as a full member.

“The competition is not exclusively for EU member states. Norway, Iceland and Switzerland have all hosted the title in the past but are not members of the EU.”

The European Capital of Culture was last hosted by the UK in 2008 when Liverpool won the bid, and prior to this Glasgow was the last UK city to win back in 1990. The decision will be made in 2018, with planning having started three years ago in 2014. The bid is being led by the Independent Steering Group with cross party support across Leeds City Council.

Christopher Tobin, Sarah Berry 

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