Leeds will be a furnace of creativity next year, as the whole city lets culture loose and shows off its artistic strength in a programme that features major new commissions with world-renowned artists alongside celebrations of everyday creativity. From dance to design, art to architecture, poetry to pop, sculpture to sport, grassroots community theatre to performances in the city’s varied venues, Leeds is set to be centre stage of the UK's cultural scene.
‘Awakening’ is the programme theme for Part One of Leeds’ Year of Culture, running from January to April 2023. Inspired by the artist in all of us and the hidden stories of the city, Leeds itself will be both muse and backdrop to an original and surprising programme that invites the world to experience the city afresh. Through commissions and exciting national and international partnerships, residents and visitors alike will have the opportunity to discover the wealth and diversity of the city’s culture.
Highlights from Part One: January – April 2023
LEEDS 2023 ORIGINAL COMMISSIONS
‘The Awakening’, 7 January. Unmissable opening event at Headingley Stadium with Corinne Bailey-Rae, Simon Armitage, Kadeena Cox OBE Inder Goldfinger and Graft.
‘Waking the Artist’, January to April. Thousands of artworks submitted by the public, in exchange for free tickets to ‘The Awakening’ are displayed all over the city.
‘Making A Stand’, March 2023 to January 2024. Bold new public artwork in central Leeds by world renowned artist Michael Pinsky and environmental architects Studio Bark
‘WOW - The Barn’, from 30 April. 300 women and non-binary people will raise a new temporary structure as part of the first WOW - Women of the World Festival in Leeds.
LEEDS 2023 PARTNERSHIPS
Leeds Literature Festival, 25 February to 5 March. Special edition interweaves Year of Culture themes: untold stories, radical acts, playful adventures, future generations.
‘The Magician’, 3 & 4 March. New film by James Phillips, Slung Low and Leeds People’s Theatre. Set in a dystopian Leeds featuring professional and citizen actors.
‘1001 Stories’, 24 April to 6 May. The lives and creativity of Leeds’ over 60s are celebrated in a two-week takeover of Leeds Playhouse, includes a new production, ‘Sinfonia’.
‘RUN’, April to June 2023. In his first year as Professor of Fashion at Leeds Beckett University, international fashion designer Matty Bovan will oversee a diverse programme of events showcasing the Class of 2023 from Leeds School of Arts.
‘Leeds Sauce’. Popeye Collective's celebration of the city’s food culture, the history of Leeds, its people, local food experts, chefs and farmers is a new condiment for Leeds.
LEEDS 2023 INTERNATIONAL PARTNERSHIPS & EVENTS
‘2 Worlds, 1 Voice’, February 2023. New EP from R&B legend Ntantu with Lagos artist Browny Pondis exploring the connections between the cities of Lagos and Leeds.
‘As You Are’, 30 March to 29 April. Soundwalk composed by South African-born cellist, composer and improviser Abel Selaocoe for the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North and special guests.
'Mural by Add Fuel', April 2023. East Street Arts reignite award-winning programme A City Less Grey with a new mural by internationally renowned artist Add Fuel, located in Burmantofts neighbourhood, famous for its ceramics heritage.
‘EUNIC in Short', April 2023. Leeds is the first city in the UK outside London to host The European Union National Institutes for Culture film festival.
The Finnish Sauna (Date TBC). Fresh from the London Festival of Architecture, this is a unique opportunity to experience sauna culture in the heart of Leeds.
Designed to awaken the creative impulse of in all of us and creating opportunities for citizens in all 33 wards to get involved, thousands of local people have already developed work that will take centre stage during Part One of Leeds’ Year of Culture.
Kully Thiarai, LEEDS 2023’s creative director and CEO said: “With the kind support and the true Yorkshire grit of the whole city, along with the help of partners, colleagues and peers, from the very local to the global, we have together dreamed up a year of creativity that we hope will provide much needed joy, delight and extraordinary experiences for everyone.
“Our Year of Culture is designed to wake up our senses and reveal our city in brand new and surprising ways; in ways perhaps that you never expected or noticed previously. We know that when this city speaks it has a proper story to tell. And it is our ambition to be the spotlight and foghorn for all the glorious creativity that is behind every door, in every home: broadcasting the brilliance of Leeds beyond the region and to all of us who live and work in the city.
“The year will be a three-part epic act of storytelling for, in and with the city and Part One – Awakening – starts now. Come experience Leeds like never before and together let’s make it a year to remember!”
Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive member for economy, culture and education, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled to be supporting LEEDS 2023 and to be seeing this hugely imaginative and exciting programme of events taking shape across the coming year.
“Culture has a unique ability to both enhance and empower our communities, giving them the platform to showcase exactly what makes Leeds such a special place. It also makes a massive contribution to our local and regional economies, attracting visitors, businesses and inward investment.
“We can’t wait to be part of what will be a transformative celebration of culture, creativity and innovation in Leeds.”
Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, said: "LEEDS 2023 is an exciting year of culture that will show the world everything this fantastic city has to offer.
“We know that our creative talent rivals anywhere in the country, and LEEDS 2023 will give people a fantastic opportunity to express themselves, all while boosting our local economy.”
“It’s important that we’re also empowering women and girls across our region, giving them the tools to get into work or change careers with boot camps to share and learn construction skills.”
COMMUNITIES AND SCHOOLS PROGRAMME
Throughout the year, artists and organisations will be collaborating with communities to shine a light on the creativity found across Leeds and produce new events with the people who live across the city. ‘My World, My City, My Neighbourhood’ will feature co-productions as varied as the areas they are inspired by. Part One will include weekly workshops produced by Stand and Be Counted for people seeking sanctuary, and the co-creation of events that will take place later in the year.
The ’Hidden Stories’ of Leeds - a city dating back hundreds of years and with a population of around 800,000 - are being uncovered in collaboration with heritage organisations. Harewood House, Royal Armouries and Thackray Museum of Medicine are among those collaborating with artists, researchers and communities to uncover and share hidden stories which will feature during the year.
Part One will see the introduction of a new creative learning programme for schools, including resources, workshops and a city-wide inter-school slam poetry competition, to encourage and inspire pupils to write, perform, analyse, create and challenge different arts forms including film, poetry and visual arts.
The full Part One programme of more than 100 events and participatory activities, many of them free, will be available in January at www.leeds2023.co.uk.
Part Two (May to August) is focused on the theme of ‘Playing’, and ‘Dreaming’ will be a forward-looking end to the year (September to December).