News portfolio: Leeds 2023 bid to be European Capital of Culture carries on despite Brexit woes

With Article 50 triggered not long ago on 28 March, the fate of Britain leaving the European Union became more solid than ever. However Leeds will carry on the bid to be European Capital of Culture for 2023.

By Shin Yiing Lee

Leeds had started the bid to become European Capital of Culture for 2023 three years ago before Britain made its decision to leave the EU. There have been warnings in that the bid may not carry on for cities in the UK.

“Brexit could endanger Leeds’s bid for European Capital of Culture” said Gilles Pargneaux, a Member of the European Parliament for Lille, in a report by The Yorkshire Post in December 2016.

In response to the warnings, Dinah Clarke, Bid Coordinator for Leeds City Council, admitted that there have been worries on whether the UK Government would allow a go-ahead for the bid. “Last June when we knew the results of the referendum, we weren’t sure whether or not the whole bidding process would go ahead. We had to wait until our own government gave us guidance on that, which didn’t come for some months.”

The Leeds 2023 bid team along with Leeds City Council lobbied politicians in Westminster and the Department of Culture, Media and Sports, for clarity on the issue and eventually succeeded when the Government gave the green light for UK cities to continue running for the bid in December 2016. There has also been positive responses from the European Commission as they expressed their wishes for the bid to continue despite Brexit.

The competition albeit being delivered by the European Commission, is not restricted to EU countries. Countries outside the EU like Norway, Iceland and Switzerland have also hosted successful European Capitals of Culture.

Leeds will remain hopeful as the bid is said to bring large amounts of investment, economic growth and a stronger cultural bond within its citizens. “Whichever city wins, wins that massive amount of media and expert attention, and with that, investment will follow as well” Dinah Clarke said. “People often call it city therapy. It’s a bit like it’s a very very strenuous workout for a city and it stretches all the different things you have to think about.”

It would cost Leeds a minimum budget of €20million to host the title, with funds likely to come from Leeds City Council itself, the three Leeds universities, the private sector, earned income and philanthropy.

The winner of the 2023 European Capital of Culture bid will be announced in 2018 and hopefully, Leeds will be able to follow the footsteps of Liverpool who once held the title.



(432 words)


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