Capital of Culture 2023 – the bid is in


The city of Leeds is celebrating a key phase in its bid to be European Capital of Culture in 2023.

Today marks the official submission of the city’s application, and a day-long party to celebrate.

The Big Send Off takes place in the Quarry Hill area of the city and will feature live music and performances aimed at all ages, together with food and drink. Nearby cultural venues such as West Yorkshire Playhouse, Northern Ballet, Phoenix Dance and Leeds College of Music are throwing open their doors as part of the free event.

Most importantly of all, people will have an opportunity to find out more about Leeds’ bid and the #MakeLeeds2023 campaign.

The University is backing the bid as its principal academic partner, and has joined forces with other education providers and arts organisations across the city to come up with a bold project – Incubating the Future.

Led by the University’s Cultural Institute, it is a creative development programme that will help to nurture the young creative entrepreneurs who will be Leeds’ cultural leaders up to 2023 and beyond.

Working with more than 400 young people from across the city, it will create opportunities and raise the aspirations, social and creative capital of young people who may not think culture is for them.

The programme will provide experiences, skills and support structures to nurture new and diverse voices for culture and connect young people with creative innovators across Europe and the wider world.

Sharon Watson, Chair of the Leeds 2023 Steering Group said: “We’re delighted to be officially submitting our bid, and now it’s time to celebrate. Not only will we celebrate the hard work, collaboration, creativity and passion that have created the bid, but we want to bring together the people creating our culture every day, and give people a sneak peek behind the scenes of some our greatest cultural venues. We hope that you can join us.”

If Leeds is successful in its bid to become the European Capital of Culture 2023, the city will host a year of cultural events to showcase and celebrate art and culture. 

The University, with its rich heritage of creativity and culture, plays an important part in the cultural life of the city through its Cultural Institute.

Professor Frank Finlay, Cultural Institute Director and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures, is a member of the Leeds 2023 steering group.

He said: "This is an opportunity to promote the city on an international stage as a very vibrant, diverse and dynamic place to come and study, work and live and we are doing all we can to support Leeds’ bid." 

For full details of the event, which runs until 8pm, see:

People can still pledge their support via Leeds’ bid website and by using the hashtag #MakeLeeds2023 on social media.

What happens next? 

The European Capitals of Culture is an initiative designed to highlight the richness and diversity of cultures in Europe and raise the international profile of cities. 

The lead time for the coveted title is long, with cities submitting proposals for consideration six years in advance of the title year.

Together with Hungary, it has been agreed that a UK location will next host a European Capital of Culture in 2023.

If the city’s bid is shortlisted next month, organisers will receive feedback from the judges and be asked to submit a second bid next spring. A final decision is expected next summer. The other UK cities throwing their hats into the ring are Dundee, Milton Keynes, Nottingham and a collaboration between Belfast and Derry.

Glasgow was European City of Culture in 1990 and Liverpool secured the title in 2008. Liverpool saw a £753.8 million boost to the economy and a 34% rise in visitors to the city.

Sir Alan Langlands, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds, said: “Success would mean a huge boost to the outstanding cultural and artistic activities our city already enjoys.

“It would also bring wider economic benefits and significant new opportunities for our staff and students who already work closely with the cultural and creative industries. The University of Leeds plays an important part in the cultural life of the city and we are proud to be the principal academic partner in this bid.”

The process of bidding is helping to build an international image of 21st century Leeds in Europe and beyond; a vital, creative, can-do city for future generations with an associated increase in jobs, skills, technological and business capacity. 

Further information

Image shows University of Leeds alumnus Simon Rix (Geography and Maths 200), bassist with the Kaiser Chiefs.

For further information email the University of Leeds press office at email or call +44 (0)113 343 4031.