Kully Thiarai and Gabby Logan

A year-long cultural festival has officially kicked off in Leeds, with the city set to become “a furnace of creativity” throughout 2023.

Organisers have revealed the epic programme for ‘Part One’ of Leeds 2023 – the city’s Year of Culture – which aims to showcase Leeds’s artistic strength and help spark the creative impulse in all of us. 

Called the ‘The Awakening’ and launched with a spectacular show at Headingley Stadium hosted by Leeds-born presenter Gabby Logan, Part One will run from January to April 2023 and features world-renowned artists alongside celebrations of everyday creativity.

From dance to design, art to architecture, poetry to pop, sculpture to sport and grassroots community theatre performances, it is hoped the packed programme will put Leeds centre stage of the UK’s cultural scene as well as encourage people in all 33 wards across the city to discover what’s on offer and inspire them to take part.

Visit the Leeds 2023 website to find out what’s on in your area and opportunities to take part.

How creativity can help boost mental wellbeing

Over recent years, there has been a growing understanding of the positive impact that creative and cultural activity can have on health and wellbeing.

The World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Regional Office for Europe carried out its most comprehensive review of evidence in 2019 – of over 900 worldwide publications covering more than 3,000 studies – and concluded that engaging in art-based activities can significantly benefit both physical and mental health.

The MindWell website has a whole section devoted to the benefits of being creative and how it can help with relaxation and lift your mood. It includes links to the full Leeds 2023 Part One programme with more than 100 events and activities, many of which are free of charge.

Throughout the year, artists and organisations will collaborate with communities to shine a light on the creativity across Leeds and produce new events with local residents, such as ‘My World, My City, My Neighbourhood’  which features co-productions as varied as the areas they are inspired by.

‘Hidden Stories’ of Leeds are also being uncovered through a project between artists, researchers, communities, and heritage organisations, including Harewood House, Royal Armouries and Thackray Museum of Medicine. 

Part One will also see a new creative learning programme introduced for schools, including workshops and a city-wide inter-school slam poetry competition, to encourage and inspire pupils. 

Kully Thiarai, creative director and CEO of Leeds 2023, said:

“With the kind support and the true Yorkshire grit of the whole city, along with the help of partners, colleagues and peers, from the very local to the global, we have together dreamed up a year of creativity that we hope will provide much-needed joy, delight and extraordinary experiences for everyone.

“Our Year of Culture is designed to wake up our senses and reveal our city in brand new and surprising ways; in ways perhaps that you never expected or noticed previously.

“We know that when this city speaks, it has a proper story to tell.

“And it is our ambition to be the spotlight and foghorn for all the glorious creativity that is behind every door, in every home: broadcasting the brilliance of Leeds beyond the region and to all of us who live and work in the city. 

“The year will be a three-part epic act of storytelling for, in and with the city and Part One – Awakening – starts now.

“Come and experience Leeds like never before and together let’s make it a year to remember.”

A quick look at what’s coming up…

Other highlights from ‘Part One’ include:

The full Part One programme can be found at www.leeds2023.co.uk or visit our ‘Get Creative’ page to find links to Leeds 2023 events as well as other creative groups in Leeds.