Culture is our new currency

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few years, you can’t have failed to notice how the importance of sport and culture has grown exponentially in Leeds. The Grand Depart of the Tour de France in 2014 is now the stuff of mystical legend. Stories and tales abound of the difference it made to the city, and its legacy is very obvious in the Tour de Yorkshire, fast becoming a vital part of the international cycling calendar.

In fact, over the last decade Leeds has seen some amazing sporting and cultural events which have seen its reputation in the UK and internationally grow, including: the opening of the world’s 13th busiest arena; the 100-day culture festival in 2014; the prestigious British Art Show in 2015; hosting the radio industry ARIAs twice; the MOBOs; the ITU World Triathlon four times; the founding of brand new festivals such as Compass and Transform; BBC Sports Personality of the Year; one of the top ten international light festivals – Leeds Light Night; Leeds International Film Festival, one of the qualifiers for the Oscars; the Rugby World Cup; established festivals such as Leeds/Reading and the West Indian Carnival; Leeds International Piano Competition; and so on and so on. Not to mention 2018’s two stunning wins for Leeds Warrior Josh Warrington, Channel 4 choosing Leeds as their new headquarters and, without jinxing it, United sitting two points clear at the top of the Championship.

Not bad, right? Leeds has been my hometown since I was a year old. The city I left for Polytechnic back in 1988 is nothing like the city we live in now. We have a confidence, swagger and belief in ourselves not seen for… well, not in my lifetime, and probably not since we were the centre of the wool industry more than a century ago. The economy is growing ahead of the rest of the UK, our tourism numbers are growing each year and we’ve just become the fourth most popular conference venue in the UK – the others ahead of us all have purpose built conference centres.

So how is the city building on all this success? In culture this is through the incredible work we are doing through Leeds 2023. What started as our bid to become European Capital of Culture has become our plan to grow this into an exceptional, £35m international cultural festival in 2023. This will bring the best of culture from across the country and world to the whole of Leeds. There will be an amazing array of new and existing cultural events leading up to 2023 and a cultural legacy which keep the city a leading international centre of culture from 2024 onwards. We’ve even secured Ruth Pitt, who led the successful bid to bring Channel 4 to Leeds, to chair the independent Leeds 2023 Trust, which will deliver Leeds 2023.

And right now Leeds 2023 is seeking a Creative Director for the company. This will be someone who can bring people into the festival who never dreamed of being part of it; has a strong desire to shape opportunities to leave a lasting legacy to benefit future generations of artists and creative producers in the city; and has an absolute commitment to the transformational role of arts and culture in cities and regions.

Leeds 2023 will bring exceptional opportunities to every citizen of Leeds, to every sector of the economy and will create a whirl of events, publicity and activities the like of which we’ve not seen before. Are you ready to take advantage of the opportunities this will present? Do you know people who are capable of taking on a NED role in the Leeds 2023 Trust? And who has the international reputation, or the growing desire and ambition, to be the creative lead for 2023? If you are interested to find out more about any of these exceptional opportunities, get in touch.

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