Leeds will bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2023.

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Leeds could be vying to become the 2023 European Capital of Culture if a report is agreed next week.

Following a year of conversations with local communities, children and young people, flagship cultural organisations and the city’s independent arts sector, senior councillors will be asked to recommend next week that Leeds’ bids to become the European Capital of Culture 2023.

Forming part of a report to Leeds City Council’s executive board on March 18 2015, members will have the opportunity to consider for the first time the views, opinions and results of a detailed public consultation on a potential bid which has taken place over the last 14 months and also approve Leeds putting its name forward for the title which will aspire through the bid to make a positive and long lasting impact on communities and the lives of residents across the city.

A wide range of questions were asked as part of the consultation, which aimed to put the thoughts of residents from all communities, backgrounds and ethnicities across Leeds right at the heart of the debate and process. Questions which were asked ranged from how can cultural activities be made more accessible and affordable for all, to the sense of identity and ambition that a bid could bring to the city. The potential costs and benefits of the title were also considered in the debate. As part of Leeds City Council’s ‘Annual Citizens Culture Survey’, which is the largest single consultation undertaken yearly by the authority with 3,000 residents, 77 per cent of respondents said they would support a bid, while 94 per cent of those who responded to a ‘Breeze Online Survey’ of children and young people also offered their support.

Coun Lucinda Yeadon, Leeds City Council’s executive member for digital and creative technologies, culture and skills said: “For more than a year now we’ve been conducting an incredibly wide-ranging and engaging consultation process, asking the city whether it thinks we should bid to become the 2023 European Capital of Culture. There’s been a real buzz about the debate with diverse views on the impact a bid could have culturally, socially and economically for Leeds but the overwhelming response has been a positive one.

“We were always determined from day one that whilst a bid and the potential benefits to communities and residents would be appealing, we had to look at it very much from the head as well as the heart. An absolutely priority to us was to hear the thoughts of as many residents as possible from all backgrounds and cultures, and I am delighted to say that the overwhelming majority of responses we received were positive. This has given us the confidence that if Leeds were to put itself in the hat to bid, the support is there from a vast number of city partners, groups, organisations and residents who will all have a massive part to play to make this ambition of becoming the 2023 European Capital of Culture a reality.”

The council began the conversation to gauge whether there was an appetite for a city bid with a public meeting at Leeds Town Hall on January 7 2014 which was attended by more than 300 people. Over the last 14 months the debate has continued with a series of blogs and opinion pieces shared across various social media platforms, focus groups with local communities and diverse groups, engagement with community committees, discussions with councillors, online surveys and video blogs from children and young people.

Leeds’ capital of culture ambition will aim to galvanise residents and communities whilst nurturing the creative talent of future generations by working with a range of partners, groups and organisations to firmly embed and reshape culture and arts in the heart and makeup of the city. The city is fortunate is already have a rich base of cultural organisations, groups and attractions, and all will play a key part in the bid to showcase Leeds’ offer to a national and international audience.

If Leeds is to move ahead on the proposal, an expression of interest bid must be submitted by December 2016 with a further and final bid submitted by December 2017, with a decision expected in 2018.

Coun Yeadon added: “If the executive board approve the report, the hard work will start straight away as we move forward on the groundwork and conversations around all aspects of the bid including its funding. We have tried to be as transparent as possible around the issue of cost whilst not wanting to reveal to any of our competitors the secrets of Leeds’ bid and the other partners we are approaching as funders! We know especially in these testing times that every penny counts but the experience of previous host cities shows us that successful bids attract funding from a whole range of individuals and organisations who are all keen to get a piece of this exciting once in a generation city event.”

To view a full copy of the report, please see: http://democracy.leeds.gov.uk/documents/s128833/European%20Capital%20of%20Culture%20Cover%20Report%20060315.pdf.