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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Leeds 2023: Year of culture in spotlight

Council assesses economic impact of Leeds 2023

The economic impact of a 12-month programme of cultural events is being assessed following the city’s official year of culture.

An evaluation report will assess whether Leeds 2023 delivered on its targets to increase visitor numbers, create jobs and attract outside investment to the city.

The programme was delivered by Leeds Culture Trust, a charity set up by the council in response to the cancellation of the UK’s participation in the European Capital of Culture competition.

Funding included grants and a £1.8m loan from Leeds City Council.

A report to the council’s Strategy and Resources scrutiny board said more than 1,000 volunteers collectively contributed 17,766 hours of their time to the events.

It said: “The year-long programme of events featured at least 1,100 events. This figure is expected to increase once final data has been collated.”

The report said the year of culture attracted national media coverage and 643,000 unique visitors to the Leeds 2023 website.

Jonathan Pryor, deputy council leader and executive member for economy, culture and education, said: “I think what we are going to see is an impact which lasts for many, many years.

“I think there’s been some phenomenal coverage across the country of the year of culture. I personally think art is of value for its own sake, but we will see that there’s a huge economic benefit to this city in addition to that.”

Cllr Sam Firth Image: Leeds Council

But Cllr Sam Firth, Conservative member for Harewood, said questions should be asked about spending on Leeds 2023.

He told Monday’s scrutiny meeting: “We’re going to wait and see what the final results of the report are when it comes out.

“Cllr Pryor talks about it being a phenomenal impact, well a phenomenal amount of money has been spent on a phenomenal flop, in my opinion.”

Cllr Pryor defended the council’s involvement, saying he saw many children enjoying the cultural events.

He said: “It’s an essential part of what this year was about.

“There has been phenomenal value in this and it’s disappointing to see people snipe from the side line who didn’t really attend that much.”

Leeds 2023 events included the unveiling of Hibiscus Rising, a colourful sculpture by the artist Yinka Shonibare, on Meadow Lane.

The sculpture was designed in honour of David Oluwale, a British-Nigerian man who drowned in the river Aire in 1969 after being chased by police.

A final evaluation and economic impact assessment of Leeds 2023 is expected to be published in the autumn.

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