Art and culture lovers will want to put the British city of Leeds on their city tour bucket list. The largest city in the county of Yorkshire will then become the UK 2023 City of Culture – a title created by the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DMCS) after the European Commission banned English cities from competing for it due to Brexit . the title European Capital of Culture 2023. Leeds was one of the six candidates. For 12 months, the city celebrates its cultural DNA through gatherings, festivals, shows, events and performances with an extensive program: from dance to design, art to architecture, from poetry to pop, sculptures and sports, theatre, film and performing arts. The full program is organized by Leeds Culture Trust. For more information about Leeds and the Year of Culture, see the Visit Leeds and Leeds2023 website.
With a population of around 813,000, Leeds is a city of contrasts where big names and unknown talent will take the stage. The Leeds 2023 City of Culture festival will be split into three time blocks: ‘The Awakening’ from January to April, ‘Playing’ from May to August and ‘Dreaming’ between September and December.
Artists performing at ‘The Awakenings’ include Corinne Bailey Rae, Opera North’s The Orchestra and Chorus and Jamie Jones-Buchanan and LYR – a band featuring writer and current UK Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, singer-songwriter Richard Walters and multi-instrumentalist and producer Patrick Pearson . The event is hosted by Gabby Logan and former Leeds United footballer and broadcaster Sanchez Payne.
Top picks from the first season of the Leeds 2023 programme
‘Smeaton 300’ – a program inspired by Leeds-born, world-renowned civil engineer and astronomer John Smeaton. Part of Smeaton300 – so named because it will celebrate its 300th birthday in 2024 – is a magical mobile observatory that will tour the town from June to December, giving residents and tourists a glimpse into the universe.
‘1001 stories’, developed by Leeds Playhouse theater and The Performance Ensemble, takes place in April and will focus on a thousand and one stories from the over 60s and create artistic work from their stories of love, loss, heartbreak , community and chance encounters.
In April, the European Union National Institutes for Culture film festival takes place in Leeds, the first city outside of London to host the film festival.
A musical soundwalk through Leeds city centre, ‘As You Are: A Leeds Soundwalk’, will also take place in April. Composed by South African cellist Abel Selaocoe, in collaboration with Opera North’s orchestra and choral and guest musicians, this promises to be an experience not to be missed when experiencing Leeds city center with headphones on.
Speaking of not-to-be-missed experiences, ‘All That Lives’ is an artistic collaboration between artist Ellie Harrison and Mexican artists Zion Art Studio, celebrating the Day of the Dead – in Mexico Día de los muertos is a special celebration – for 9 days with residents from Yorkshire in November.
Museums are free to visit
Apart from the LEEDS 2023 City of Culture programme, you’ll find culture on every corner in Leeds and museums are free to visit, including the top Leeds Art Gallery and the adjacent Henry Moore Institute. The former houses a huge collection of 20th-century British art, including paintings and sculptures. The Henry Moore Institute – named after one of the most influential British sculptors of the 20th century Henry Spencer Moore (1898-1986), who was a student at the Leeds School of Arts in 1919 – has galleries of sculptures from around the world.
Contemporary art is displayed in the beautiful art deco building The Tetley – former headquarters of the Tetley Brewery or walk the ‘Street Art Trail or Waterfront Art Trail’ with some truly amazing murals and artistic graffiti.
Leeds is the only city outside London with a resident opera company – Opera North with performances at Leeds Grand Theater and Leeds Townhall. The Northern Ballet company, known for its inventive dance, was founded in 1969 and has since become one of the most recognized dance companies in the world.