Leeds 2023
Ground-breaking and highly respected theatre director Kully Thiarai will return to Leeds to oversee a major cultural investment programme culminating in a spectacular one year cultural festival for the city in 2023. Picture Mark Bickerdike.
The newly-formed trust that will spearhead a game-changing cultural investment programme for Leeds is set to get the official backing of the city’s senior councillors next week.

Members of Leeds City Council’s executive board will be asked to approve a formal grant agreement with the Leeds Culture Trust, sparking an ambitious, four-year programme of activity culminating in Leeds 2023, a landmark new city-wide celebration.

The council’s support will also allow the trust to appoint key team members as well as beginning more detailed work with local, national and international individuals and organisations as they bring together an exciting, world-class artistic programme for Leeds 2023.

Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, who will represent the council on the trust’s board said:

“Next week is set to be a pivotal moment on the journey towards Leeds 2023 and throughout that journey, our commitment to seeing the best of culture in Leeds given the showcase it deserves has never wavered.

“An investment in culture is an investment in everything that makes Leeds such a fantastic place and if approved by the board, this agreement will represent a decisive statement about our unshakable belief that this city deserves to stand shoulder to shoulder with the very best cultural destinations in the world.

“We are confident that the trust and its team will have the knowledge, expertise and passion to deliver on that ambition and that, in their hands, Leeds 2023 can be a genuine game-changer for culture in Leeds.”

Last summer, the executive board approved the formation of the trust, an independent charity which will be the main delivery body for Leeds 2023. That followed cross-party support for the festival at a meeting of the city’s full council in January 2018.

The 2023 festival itself will nurture and celebrate the cultural life of Leeds as well as bringing the best global arts to the city and providing a catalyst for attracting visitors, jobs, new skills and economic growth.

Councillor Dan Cohen, shadow cabinet member for leisure and culture will also sit on the Leeds 2023 board.

He said: “Leeds 2023 is a fantastic opportunity to shine a light on the city’s vibrant cultural life. Over the next four years, I’m sure the team will be focussed on staging a programme that really puts Leeds on the map as an artistic and cultural hotspot, and I’m keen to ensure it achieves that.

“By opening a window onto the city, the project should also attract visitors, investment, jobs and skills that will benefit Leeds communities. I’m proud to be serving on the board and eager to get to work.”

Earlier this year, media executive and former journalist Ruth Pitt was announced as the new chair of Leeds 2023.

Ruth helped to shape the successful Leeds campaign to become the home of Channel 4’s new National HQ and also runs mentoring networks that help develop next-generation talent for the broadcaster. She is currently also the director of the Creative Cities Convention and a trustee of Leeds Playhouse.

Over the past few months, Ruth has been meeting cultural and community groups across the city to gather opinions and ideas. She has now begun assembling a team, contacting prospective trustees and board members for Leeds 2023.

Last week saw the announcement that ground-breaking and highly respected theatre director Kully Thiarai will become the new CEO and creative director of Leeds 2023, working to bring together a world-class programme celebrating the best of cultural life in Leeds.

Ruth said: “It’s been inspiring to join the 2023 team and to experience the collective purpose and growing momentum surrounding the event. The appointment of Kully Thiarai is a huge statement of intent about our ambition for this cultural programme and there is a real sense that Leeds is on the verge of something special, with a determination to grasp this opportunity to create something new, unique and exciting.

“With the support, we hope to receive from the council’s executive board next week, we can begin to work with our partners and communities to make the long-held vision of a world-class cultural event for Leeds a reality.”

At next Wednesday’s meeting, members of the executive board will be asked to note further progress on establishing Leeds Culture Trust and confirm the grant agreement.

To read a full copy of the report, visit: www.democracy.leeds.gov.uk