Hot on the heels of last week’s public meeting, Leeds City Council’s leaders are about to begin their debate on whether Leeds should bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2023.
The council’s executive board (made up of senior councillors) is going to discuss the issue at a meeting next week (22nd January).
It’s early days. The only thing they’ll be deciding is that a detailed report is brought back to them early next year (2015) after discussions have taken place city-wide.
That report will include a detailed look at the “funding implications” of a possible bid: putting together a bid will cost, as will paying for a dedicated project team to manage and deliver the bid.
There may already be help at hand:
“The Council has already been approached by a private sector organisation interested in financially supporting this work and by another public sector organisation offering additional resource. These conversations are on-going,” says a report drafted for next week’s meeting.
The 42,000 young people who have the local Breeze leisure card will be approached for their views, and council staff will offer help to community and cultural organisations who want to find out more.
“If the city is to bid it would need to make its intentions known by 2016, and will need to have the support of a wide range of stakeholders, not just the cultural sector,” says the report.
“To this end a great deal of consultation and engagement across the city is needed over the next nine to twelve months to establish the appetite and support for making a bid.”
Social media first?
For a start, it’s the first time (that I’m aware of) that an analysis of social media has formed part of a report going to the executive: there’s data and commentary presented on the impact on Twitter of last week’s Town Hall meeting about a possible bid, with individual tweets quoted.
Poverty? Profile beyond retail?
And the tone and content of the report aren’t your usual council officer’s report fare either.
Here’s one example: (phrases put in bold by me):
“A major consideration is the question of how would achieving this award make any difference to those living in poverty in the city? How could bidding for the title make a difference to a 10 year old living in poverty now who will be an adult in 2023, or to a young woman of 20 not in education, employment or training now and who will be 30 in 2023?
“We know that in general, and despite excellent programmes of education and engagement, our cultural riches do not always serve everyone equally, or make a difference to their lives. If our proposal for European Capital of Culture did not directly address this question and involve every community in the city, we should perhaps not bid.”
“Bringing the city together to bid is almost as important as winning, as it offers an opportunity to address issues within the culture and arts sector and bring the city, not just its cultural institutes, together under a shared ambition.
And here’s one more:
We have our own huge strengths of course but, outside of the city, Leeds itself does not really have an identifiable cultural profile outside of retail. It is notable that hardly any of our major arts institutions have a titular Leeds identity. Think of Opera North, Northern Ballet, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Yorkshire Dance, Northern School of Contemporary Dance.
Currently, is Leeds much less than the sum of its remarkable parts? What would it cost financially and in terms of commitment from the sector to address these issues in the lead up to the bid submission? Could it be done in time?
See what you think. The full report is here.