Leeds to go ahead with culture programme

Council announces £35m fund for 2023

Leeds is planning a £35m six-year culture programme to build on the city’s stalled 2023 European Capital of Culture bid.

The council aims to work with Arts Council England and the private sector to build a fund for the programme, which will act as a showcase for the city.

Projects that feature in the programme include a collaborative sculpture project ‘Yorkshire Sculpture International’ for 2019 and 2023, the launch of the Leeds Peoples Theatre community theatre and the Leeds Lighthouse.

The lighthouse, funded by local businesses, will be the size of a traditional lighthouse and will act as a beacon in one of the city's most important development sites. It will celebrate the iconic designs of Leeds civic engineer John Smeaton, and incorporate an international programme of light, sound and design commissions.
The move follows news in November that the UK’s cities were no longer in the running for the EU title in 2023 because of Brexit.

Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: "Undoubtedly it was a huge blow when Leeds was denied the chance to bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2023. However, we have been determined not to see the unprecedented enthusiasm and energy which has built behind the bid go to waste and to create a strong and meaningful legacy across the whole city.

"The bid was a tremendous catalyst for a whole new cultural conversation across our city which in turn has sparked some incredibly original and inventive ideas from across our communities, artists, businesses and the public.

Cllr Blake also said that Leeds would now work with former UK “rivals” also prevented from holding the 2023 title.

However a Tory MP has already criticised the lighthouse proposal. Alec Shelbrooke, MP for Elmet and Rothwell, said the money should be used for housing, although no council funds are earmarked for the project.

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