Plus details of the planned events and projects if Leeds is successful

Leeds 2023 - the organisation behind the city’s bid to become the European Capital of Culture in 2023 - has officially submitted its bid manifesto, marking the occasion with a street party in one of the city centre’s most culturally-rich areas.

The year-long programme lays out the plans to create a cultural celebration across all 33 wards of Leeds, intending to “weave the city together”, celebrate our differences, and tackle difficult issues that we face together as a city with events and projects across four strands: Fabric, Fear & Belonging, Voice, and Room.

Fabric looks at the framework of the city, and the people and communities that make Leeds Leeds, aims to address and correct cultural and societal imbalances, and emphasise the things that bind us; think neighbourhood street parties, a leg-up for deprived areas of the city, and showcasing creatives in wards outside of the city centre.

Perhaps the most topical strand is Fear & Belonging, which “aims to provide places and spaces for people across Europe to share and debate the things that make us afraid; the things that keep us awake at night, our tensions, our doubts about how we live and work together, the challenges we face”

This will be represented by a full size lighthouse in Leeds’ new South Bank development, to act as a beacon for new arrivals and visitors to the city, as well as hosting light, sound, and design installations for everybody to enjoy.

Fear & Belonging will also feature projects focusing on disenfranchised or discriminated communities, such as the elderly - with plans for a large scale performance art project featuring Leeds’ over-60s on the city’s buses - and the LGBTQ+ community.

Voice is committed to projecting the voice of Leeds’ children and young people, not only so it reverberates around its 33 wards, but also so it’s amplified across Europe. It also aims to make Leeds the best city in Europe for children to grow up in, going against the rising tide of childhood poverty.

“There is something about this place, this city: a quality and a creative state of mind that allows space for artists, academics, scientists, sports people, chefs, engineers and citizens, to grow, define new styles, concoct new flavours, find their flair, imagine new horizons, and shine light in dark corners.” and so the final strand, Room, will ensure the city’s creatives have room for the creativity to grow and be heard.

Being named the Capital of Culture has the potential to bring huge benefits to the city. Following Liverpool’s successful bid in 2008, the city has estimated an economic boost of around £750million directly related to the award. Outside of the cultural events, plans relating to the 2023 bid include a complete redevelopment of the City Square outside Leeds Station, and plans to create 2,500 hotel vacancies to welcome tourists to invigorate the city. 

First though, we have to beat tough competition from Nottingham, Dundee, Belfast, and - don't laugh - Milton Keynes.

The bid’s send-off was marked by a celebration at Quarry Hill attended by thousands of residents. Workshops and main stage performances started at midday featuring Yorkshire Dance, Northern Ballet, and Leeds College of Music,, with food and drink provided by local independent food and drink businesses such as Manjit’s KItchen, Aagrah, Pizza Loco, and North Brewing Co. Leeds’ music and party legacy was represented by Leeds West Indian Carnival, and an afterparty from house and techno pioneers Back 2 Basics, started in the late 1980s by Leeds local Dave Beer.

The 2023 Capital of Culture shortlist will be unveiled in December.