This week Leeds was named by the Lonely Planet Guide as one of the top cities to visit in Europe in 2017.
It was ranked fifth in the Guide’s list of ten, with the editor citing the city’s cultural offer, alongside the thriving nightlife and burgeoning restaurant scene, as a significant factor in its placing. Also mentioned was the forthcoming reopening of Leeds Art Gallery in October. The good news is that their recent fundraising campaign for a new art commission from exciting young artist Lothar Gotz, to coincide with the reopening, has been successful and come the autumn a vibrant new painting will be in place on the walls of the gallery’s Victorian staircase.
Elsewhere in Leeds the Henry Moore Institute and smaller spaces such as the hidden gem that is the Stanley and Audrey Burton gallery continue to bring the work of top international artists to the city. (That’s even before you think of all the theatre, live music, dance and film you can access any night of the week). There is plenty to be grateful for, but Leeds is just a microcosm of the many exciting things going on in the arts across Yorkshire – the Hepworth Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park, for example, are both leading European art venues.
In a recent piece in the Guardian, the artist Bob and Roberta Smith compared the UK’s forthcoming departure from the EU to Henry VIII’s split from Rome which led to ‘the destruction of medieval British culture and the dissolution of the monasteries’ warning that post-Brexit the country could face ‘a dissolution of our museums and galleries comparable in its devastation to that visited on England in the 1530s, as philistine politicians slash budgets.’
His views will, no doubt, be dismissed by some as scaremongering, but we must guard against losing our galleries and museums by visiting them and by letting the people who run them– and those who fund them – know that they are valued. People need the arts today more than ever to feed their souls, connect with –and make sense of – the wider world. And none of us must allow attacks of the kind we saw in Manchester on Monday on places of entertainment, art and leisure to prevent us from continuing to engage with the arts. That would be admitting defeat.
The arts, as I will never tire of saying – so apologies because I am sure you will hear it from me again – is where we all discover our common humanity, where we celebrate all those things which unite us rather than those which divide us. We all owe it ourselves to be part of the resistance.