Leeds 2023 announces creative partners for year of culture - Museums Association

Leeds 2023 announces creative partners for year of culture

British Library collaboration and artist commissions form heart of plans
A CGI rendering of the entrance to Temple Works, the British Library's planned development in Leeds
A CGI rendering of the entrance to Temple Works, the British Library's planned development in Leeds Leeds 2023

Major national partners have joined Leeds 2023’s drive to create its year of culture, with organisations across the arts and sports sectors playing a part in delivering the city’s plans.

The British Library, Leeds Rhinos, Leeds United, the National Youth Theatre and WOW – Women of the World are developing creative projects with the Leeds 2023 team, led by creative director and chief executive Kully Thiarai, for the year-long cultural celebration.

The year of culture will feature 12 signature events and a range of creative experiences across the city made for and with Leeds residents of all ages. The project began in 2015 after the city made an unsuccessful bid to be the European Capital of Culture for 2023, with UK cities made ineligible for the title following Brexit.

Leeds 2023 will be the first large-scale event of its kind in the city region. Work is already underway with 75 artists commissioned, including 10 working with heritage organisations to uncover the hidden histories of he city; 10 projects taking place in schools; 20 artists embedded in 20 communities across Leeds; collaborations with children and young people; and work in more than 20 territories worldwide.

A range of creative partnerships are in development, including a new commission by international artist Yinka Shonibare honouring the life of David Oluwale, creating a lasting legacy to mark the life of the British Nigerian and Leeds resident who died following police harassment in 1969. Another is a programme building towards a new National Poetry Centre in Leeds, led by Simon Armitage as part of the legacy of his 10-year tenure as poet laureate.

Chair of Leeds Culture Trust Gabby Logan said: “To have attracted such a breadth of partnerships from major organisations across education, arts and sports is amazing and shows that Leeds is already a city of creativity and ambition. Leeds’s sporting achievements are renowned but its time in the cultural limelight is long overdue. All these brands have huge international reputations, and they will help us to put Leeds on the world stage for culture.”


With creative collaborations underway and plans in place to develop a British Library site in the city, the British Library’s chief executive Roly Keating said: “Leeds 2023 promises to be a big cultural moment in the life of the city and of the nation, and the British Library is thrilled to be a partner.

“Through our site at Boston Spa, near Wetherby, we have had a major presence in the region for more than 60 years, and our growing cultural and learning programme in Leeds is now opening up our unrivalled collections to people across the city and throughout the north. As well as expanding and refurbishing our Boston Spa campus, we are looking to develop a permanent British Library site at Temple Works in Leeds, and Leeds 2023 offers an opportunity for us to connect with local partners and audiences as never before.”

Leeds 2023 creative director Kully Thiarai said: “I’m often told that Leeds is a sleeping giant and that we don’t shout about all the great things happening our city. Well now is our time and the people of Leeds – the general public, artists, businesses, educational organisations and cultural institutions – are ready for the spotlight during our year of culture. A year that celebrates and showcases all that is wonderful and extraordinary about our people, our heritage, and this place called Leeds that we call home. Together we will create new and memorable stories that will shape and change our remarkable city forever.

“Our ambitions are sky high and none of this can be done by us alone. So, I am very excited by the creative partnerships we have announced today and there are many more in the pipeline that I’m looking forward to sharing later this year. Leeds 2023 will be significant and relevant locally, nationally and internationally. An explosion of colour, noise and brilliance that will show the world in our city and our city to the world.”

The announcement of creative partners follows recent news of £1m investment raised by Leeds Culture Trust from major investors including the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, British Council, KPMG, HBD and Mott MacDonald.

Programme announcements will be made this September.

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