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On 7th January 2014 our City Council is hosting an open discussion around whether Leeds should even bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2023.

Surely this is a sign of our lingering inferiority complex that there is even a shadow of doubt that we should go for it when Hull have just won the UK version. Think about that, Hull is the next UK City of Culture and we’re not even in the running for any cultural crown.

That we should throw our hat in the ring for the European crown is now a no-brainer when you think that all Hull has to offer is the long dead poet Philip Larkin, who hated the place, and Hull Truck Theatre merrily regurgitating the same old nobility of the working class shtick.

In contrast we have the ingredients for an absolutely unbeatable bid starting with the Opera North.

Northern Ballet dancers in David Nixon's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo Emma Kauldhar

You can then throw in the magnificent new arena.

Then add our brilliant home grown companies like Slung Low, Tutti Frutti and Red Ladder.

That’s just off the top of my head, which doesn’t even begin to take into account the contribution made to our cultural life by three world class universities, a myriad of different communities from around the world and sporting organisations.

You could argue that the judges might think we already have it good culturally, so why not award it to a backwater city like Birmingham to kick start their scene?

Hello, Liverpool was a European Capital of Culture and they are basically a Beatles tribute city, which is ironic given that as soon as the Fab Four got a few bob they headed off down south.


I think going for the bid allows us to do three things.

The first is to benchmark where our artistic offering is, so even if we lose we can see what works, where there the gaps are and what needs a kick up the backside.

The second is that if we win, it gives our existing cultural outlets the chance to really think big and create projects that engage the whole city including folk who think art isn’t for them.

Finally, it says we are a city that sees itself as a major player on the European stage, not just a cultural destination, but as an equal to our competitors in an increasingly global marketplace.

Over the last few years, the political stability at the Town Hall has allowed us the chance to plan our city’s future long term and a bid to be European City of Culture can only accelerate that process.

If we are getting all Yorkshire about it, apart from spending a bit of brass to create the bid, what do we have to lose?


‘Should Leeds Bid for European Capital of Culture?’ is at Leeds Town Hall on 7th January 2014. Entry is free but you need to book your place.

Feature Image courtesy of JR.