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LEEDS TO BID FOR EUROPEAN CAPITAL OF CULTURE

6th April 2017

For many of us who own and run a business it can be difficult to plan too far ahead, thankfully the same can’t be said for those working on the European Capital of Culture Bid; they have 2023 firmly set in their sights.

Not to be confused with the UK City of Culture that was awarded to Hull, the European equivalent has been 14 months in the planning. Already generating positive support from residents, 85% of people when questioned expressed their favour at the proposal during a series of public consultation meetings.

As one of the largest financial and legal districts outside of London, people can be excused for thinking that Leeds is all about business but the truth is that the city has a strong cultural offering. With the Grand Theatre, City Museum, Art Gallery and West Yorkshire Playhouse, along with Opera North and the Northern Ballet, all located within walking distance, Leeds has an eclectic mix of things to see and do.

That perhaps is just one reason why there were no shortage of people who were willing to work on the bid, with 140 applications received. From those, five-advisory groups were formed and a steering group developed a marketing and artistic programme to be showcased alongside a new culture strategy for the city.

With an international profile, Leeds is a city that thrives on diversity. Leeds 2023 will be working hard to raise the profile of the many initiatives, activities and events that shape the culture of the city but importantly engage people outside of its immediate boundaries and attract them to travel to the region.

The reasons for wanting to take the title are simple, credibility and inward investment. When Liverpool was named European Capital of Culture it also generated £750m. The same could be said of Glasgow when it reinvented itself to become a destination that was synonymous with leisure and tourism.

The plans for Leeds are looking at long-term ambitions and how the city can evolve over time. In order to gain momentum, a programme of communication and engagement has begun with an event in London.

You may wonder why a contender for European Capital of Culture would go to London but the region has to prove that it has what it takes to attract people from further afield. The only way to do this is to take the message to the masses – not wait for someone to knock on the door.

Featuring at the Buy Yorkshire Conference, it is hoped that everyone from the city and the surrounding areas will get behind the bid and will show their support. From now until Christmas the team from Leeds 2023 will be working exceptionally hard to make sure that Leeds will be shortlisted.

It’s going to be tough with competition from across the UK but there is a good chance that Leeds can clearly show that it has the diversity, variety and culture that is expected from a winning bid.

The city will be showcased in all of its forms, with 18 planned projects over the coming months. Recognising that there is an inequality between the city centre and surrounding district, this will be an element that is addressed by the team.

Inclusivity in European Capital of Culture is a huge part of the bid and acknowledging the challenges head-on puts the city in a positive position. It will prove that becoming European City of Culture will benefit the wider community and surrounding district, as well as those that choose to live and work in the city itself.

Interestingly, in order to create as much interest as possible, Leeds 2023 will be creating a series of logos that can be used by those who want to show their support. Rather than take the approach of the Olympics, and discourage people from displaying any association unless paid for, the team are trying to make the bid as accessible as possible.

There is a lot of work to be done between now and 2023 but we think that Leeds is perfectly placed to become the European Capital of Culture, we also know that when we work together we can achieve anything, so we are encouraging everyone who comes along to Buy Yorkshire to back the bid!

As the UK City of Culture for 2017, Hull is just the start. We need to use the influence that this has had on the wider Yorkshire district and learn some valuable lessons. We need to start to shout louder about all of the magnificent things that Yorkshire has to offer both in Leeds and further afield.
Choosing the Buy Yorkshire Conference to engage with the SME audience was certainly a very good start.

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