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24 Jun 2016

What next for the European Capital of Culture 2023 bid?

Posted on June 24, 2016 by

On Monday I and fellow comms professionals across the region heard the latest updates on Leeds’ Capital of Culture bid at the Leeds Communications Network, held at Trinity University.

The talk, given by the Marketing Chair of the steering group for Leeds’ Capital of Culture, was inspiring, as different sub-groups of influential people within the culture, arts, transport, business and public sectors start defining Leeds’ cultural identity.

With ambition, experimentation and collaboration at the heart of the bid, I came away feeling excited about the future of the city, but will the UK lose its 2023 designation for the European Capital of Culture if we’re going to be out of the EU?

In a statement on the issue, Sharon Watson, Chair of the Leeds 2023 Independent Steering Group, says: “We are working with the organisations of the European Capital of Culture Competition to determine if there is to be any impact of this decision on those cities in the UK wishing to bid for the title.

“Previously countries including Norway and Iceland, both of whom are not part of the European Union, have hosted the title. Regardless of political alliance, Leeds continues to be a European city, hosting and exporting work across the continent and working with partners across Europe in cities such as Dortmund, Lille and Brno.  These strong relationships will continue across the artistic community in Leeds.”

It’s unclear whether we’ll still be in the running or not – whether the ‘divorce’ period will make an allowance or if it will be part of the agreement made.  Whilst non-EU cities have held the title before, the European Capital of Culture states that this only applies to member or candidate states, which would rule the UK out.

If we do lose the Capital of Culture opportunity, it means that the time, money and resource that Leeds, Milton Keynes and Dundee have invested in their bids – the process for Leeds began in 2014 – will now be redundant.

However, it’s important that, whatever the outcome, we don’t abandon the two years already invested into the city’s cultural strategy.  The process of bidding alone is crucial to our development and for a city that’s been described as culturally bland (we’ll agree to disagree – Northern Ballet, Henry Moore, Opera North…) and lacking big-ticket national attractions, the direction and process required to bid could be just what we need. To redefine our cultural identity on a national and international scale, and focus our long-term cultural plan.

Leeds Capital of Culture 2023

Image source: Wikipedia

There’s no doubt that winning the European Capital of Culture title and investment has a huge impact on both tourism and economy. Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture in 2008 resulted in ‘bumper’ visitor numbers and a multimillion pound investment in its economy. But it’s not just cities given the title that benefit, which is why creating a cultural plan should firmly remain on the city’s agenda regardless.

The Capital of Culture bid has already succeeded in bringing people, cultural projects and organisations across the city together to talk about what Leeds’ culture is and should be about, which I hope will continue with momentum – whatever the Capital of Culture 2023 outcome may be.

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