The cultural growth of Leeds isn’t just a moment, it’s a movement - Nick Ahad

Leeds Playhouse's Artistic Director James Brining.  Picture Tony Johnson.
Leeds Playhouse's Artistic Director James Brining. Picture Tony Johnson.
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I’ve finally done it. It’s taken a couple of years of patient internet lurking, waiting for the stars to align, waiting for the right deal to appear, but I’ve finally gone and booked tickets to see Hamilton.

I know that it will be worth the wait, three months before I’ve even seen the show. Hamilton is that extraordinary thing the theatre world provides every now and then: a musical in which the music exists outwith the actual production. I already know most of the words to the songs of the Hamilton soundtrack. One of my favourite songs is the brilliant My Shot. It has this lyric that goes: “We have to make this moment last...scratch that, this is not a moment, it’s a movement.”

I thought about the sentiment of those lines when I was talking to James Brining earlier this week.

The artistic director of the Leeds Playhouse was talking to me about the impending reopening of the theatre following its £16m refurbishment. He referenced the front page of last Friday’s Yorkshire Evening Post which bore the headline: We Are a City of Culture.

The headline was for a story about the record 1.7million visitors attracted through the doors of Leeds’s museums and galleries in the past year.

Having written about the arts for the Yorkshire Evening Post and Yorkshire Post since 2001, I can tell you what might feel like a great moment isn’t a moment but a movement. Or rather, it could be, if we grasp the moment and turn it into a movement.

As Brining said when we chatted, there is a window that exists right now. Channel 4 are moving into an office in Leeds. The city’s major producing theatre is reopening this autumn. A new city college is rising out of the ground, filling the gap for training the artists of the future left when Bretton Hall closed for business. Theatre company Slung Low is redefining what a company such as theirs can do in the way they are running The Holbeck, a working men’s club. Brining can feel it, I can see it and Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake celebrated it in a column in the YEP on Monday.

We are at a tipping point in Leeds and as one of the leading cities of the county, the way the city tips has ramifications for the whole of Yorkshire.

We are in a moment. The stars are aligning, the Yorkshire Evening Post declared it on the front page a week ago: We are a City of Culture. Recognise that, embrace it, capitalise on it and who knows where this movement will take us.