Leeds 2023 launches community-driven programme - Museums Association

Leeds 2023 launches community-driven programme

Artist commissions will populate the city as part of £30m scheme
Art Communities Festival
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Eleanor Mills
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The Leeds 2023 team, from left to right: Abigail Scott Paul, director of external relations; Kully Thiarai, creative director/CEO; Mark Hollander, executive director
The Leeds 2023 team, from left to right: Abigail Scott Paul, director of external relations; Kully Thiarai, creative director/CEO; Mark Hollander, executive director Photo by @keithkaselampao

Leeds Culture Trust has launched its Leeds 2023 programme, which is titled Letting Culture Loose.

The £30m scheme, principally funded by Leeds City Council, hopes to boost culture city-wide.

The programme will involve 23 artists making 23 new commissions under the guise of “My World, My City, My Neighbourhood”. With funding from Arts Council England, the artists will work alongside local communities, representative of the cultural diversity of the city and its 170 languages, to imagine and test new ideas that could lead to projects in 2023.

So far, the projects include two new sculptures: a roaming photography studio that will capture photos of the people of Leeds, and a day-long broadcast from one of the city’s most popular indie radio stations, Sable Radio.

The artist Yinka Shonibare has also been commissioned for 2023 to create a memorial to David Oluwale, who died in Leeds after police harassment in the 1960s.

The poet laureate Simon Armitage is working with Leeds 2023 to make the city the home of a new National Poetry Centre, and the British Library North is also due to open in Leeds in the coming years.

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The Leeds 2023 team is working with the Henry Moore Institute, the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery at the University of Leeds, as well as the team behind the 2019 sculpture festival, Yorkshire Sculpture International, among other organisations.

Kully Thiarai, the creative director and chief executive of Leeds 2023, said: “Leeds 2023 is all about ‘letting culture loose’ and being completely open to any and all ideas that emerge, involving as many local people as possible in this crucial and exciting stage. Our imagination enables us all to be storytellers.

“Creativity is in all of us, sometimes we just need to be guided to reconnect with that bit of ourselves that wants to joyfully and curiously play and dream. Leeds 2023 creates an opportunity for us all to come together and collectively do this.”

Pete Massey, director, North, Arts Council England, said: “This past year has highlighted the vital role arts and culture plays in defining the places and communities we live in. As we slowly begin to ease out of lockdown it is fantastic to see that Leeds recognises the role culture has to play in both the social and economic recovery from Covid.

“Leeds 2023 was always an excellent idea, but we are beginning to see what a fantastic reality it will become and what a boon for the city and the region it will be.” 

Singer-songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae and Kaiser Chiefs bassist Simon Rix are among the patrons for Leeds 2023.

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