Leeds 2023 to help create 'powerhouse of culture' across North of England as Corinne Bailey Rae and Kaiser Chiefs’ Simon Rix announced as patrons

The chief executive of a year-long festival celebrating the arts and heritage in Yorkshire’s largest city has claimed the landmark event will help create a “powerhouse of culture” across the North of England.

The Leeds 2023 team

The organisers behind the vision for Leeds 2023 yesterday unveiled plans for a programme of events which will see artists working with local people in communities across the city.

The proposals also include a series of 12 showpiece cultural events which will run throughout the year of culture in Leeds.

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As support ramps up for the ground-breaking year of cultural activity, singer Corinne Bailey Rae and Kaiser Chiefs’ bassist, Simon Rix, have been announced as patrons of Leeds 2023.

The creative director and chief executive of Leeds 2023, Kully Thiarai, told The Yorkshire Post that the festival will help build on a cultural revolution that is happening across Yorkshire.

Bradford is currently bidding to become the UK City of Culture in 2025, a title which was secured by Hull four years ago.

Meanwhile, Kirklees has announced that it will stage a year of music during 2023 to tie in with Leeds’ own festival, and Calderdale is aiming to stage its own year of culture in 2024.

Ms Thiarai said: “There is an extraordinary arc stretching across Yorkshire at the moment which is showing that culture has a really significant impact not just on people’s enjoyment and well-being, but also with economic benefits for the region.

“We want to create a real powerhouse of culture across the North.

“During the past year or so, people have realised just how important culture is to them, as they have joined virtual choirs, consumed boxsets on the television, enjoyed music and read books.

“There is a real sense of the potency of culture at the moment, and how it can help bring solace as well as renewed enjoyment for so many people.”

The Leeds Culture Trust, which is the charity behind Leeds 2023, yesterday launched its ‘Letting Culture Loose’ initiative to champion creativity in Leeds’s diverse communities.

The trust’s new mantra is aiming to dispel any narrow definitions of art and culture, unlocking opportunities for every child and resident in all 33 Leeds wards to be part of 365 days of cultural celebrations.

Internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter Bailey Rae and Rix, the bassist with Kaiser Chiefs, have joined Poet Laureate Simon Armitage as patrons on the festival. All three patrons were born in the city.

Bailey Rae said the festival will showcase “all the best our city has to offer in the arts and culture”, while Rix added: “I’m backing Leeds 2023 because I’m proud to be from Leeds and I want the world to see what a great city it is and all it has to offer creatively.

“I think Leeds 2023 can help grow, connect and consolidate our city’s creative side, encouraging people to work together towards a common aim and see Leeds’ profile grow as a unique hub for culture.” 

The year-long celebration, which is the first large-scale event of its kind in the Leeds city region, will feature 12 signature events of international significance and a multitude of events in partnership with artists and organisations, engaging both Leeds’ residents and visitors to the city.

Also announced, to help accelerate the cultural sector’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, is a new programme of commissions from 23 artists who will work in 23 communities of Leeds, called My World, My City, My Neighbourhood.

With funding from Arts Council England, it will support a wide range of people to get involved in Leeds 2023 and help shape the year of culture.

A movement of 23 ‘culture makers’ will work alongside local communities, representative of the cultural diversity of the city and its 170 languages.

Leeds 2023 is also offering seed commissions to artists in the city to develop new ideas for the year of culture.

Projects include two new sculptures to be sited in the community, a roaming photography studio capturing photos of the people of Leeds, and a special day-long broadcast from one of the city’s favourite indie radio stations, Sable Radio.

Leeds Council had originally applied for the city to become European Capital of Culture in 2023, but the European Commission said it would not be eligible after Brexit.

The leader of Leeds Council, Coun James Lewis, said: “We have been on quite a journey with Leeds 2023 as together we’ve watched this bold, ambitious project grow and evolve.

“What has always remained constant though, is the shared vision to put the imaginative and creative people of Leeds at the heart of what will be a landmark celebration of everything that makes this city such a unique and inspiring place.”

Independent research published earlier this month found that the year-long cultural festival in Leeds is set to boost the local economy by £114m and create more than 1,300 new jobs.

Millions of people are expected to visit the city for Leeds 2023 to see an array of art exhibitions and live performances.

An independent report, compiled by BOP Consulting, found Leeds can expect to see the number of visitors rise by 10 per cent in 2023, but without the £35m cultural festival it would increase by just four per cent.

That will result in an extra £114m of direct and indirect revenue for the local economy in 2023, the report states, and create 1,310 new jobs in the city.

By 2030, the consultants predict £140m of revenue and 1,620 jobs will have been created by the 365-day cultural celebration.