JLife chats to David Israel, who is the Leeds 2023 bid team lead for fundraising and partnerships, as the city competes to be crowned the 2023 European Capital of Culture.
The shortlist for the 2023 European Capital of Culture is announced in November. Is the Leeds camp feeling confident?
We know that we have a very strong bid. We’ve got a level of culture in Leeds that is phenomenal – we have established big names like Opera North, Northern Ballet, West Yorkshire Playhouse and others. We also have up-and-coming organisations that are beginning to grow a national reputation like Phoenix Dance, RashDash and the Transform Festival.
We also have a fabulous business centre that is really behind the bid. Businesses are investing hundreds of thousands of pounds to help us win, while Leeds City Council and all of the universities and colleges are on board with us as well. So we have everything in place to help us put forward a really phenomenal bid. But, the other cities competing can also put good bids together as well, so we’re not complacent. We’ve got a lot of hard work to do, but we know we’re going to present the very best that Leeds can be and we hope that’s going to be enough to win.
Give us an update on how the bid is going.
What’s most important for us is that we have to submit our bid – 52 questions and 80 pages by 27th October. If you think about it like a job application, we have to submit our CV and then we have the first round of interviews at the end of November, so we’ll know by the end of that month or early December whether we have been shortlisted for the second round.
If we do get shortlisted then there will be a longer period of a few months when we’ll have interviews, questions and visits by the judges. We’ll know if we’ve won by late summer or early autumn 2018.
How did you first become involved with the bid?
I have been working for Leeds City Council council for a number of years now for the museums and galleries. About 18 months ago I met with Andrew Dixon, the advisor who is working with the council, to give him advice and insight into the businesses in Leeds and their likely levels of support. Andrew helped Hull, when they were 16/1 outsiders, to become the UK City of Culture 2017. So having him on board is a real boon for us.
I believe I have the best job in the world. Fundraising is never easy – never has been and never will be. But this is the least difficult fundraising I’ve ever done as businesses recognise the value and importance of winning. When we’re about to leave the European Union in a political sense, this European cultural prize will show that Leeds is very much still in Europe and open to doing business and welcoming visitors, tourists and conferences. The bid, following Brexit, allows us to show that.
How important have the grass roots promoters been in helping to spread the word?
Hugely – we’ve been promoting the bid through all the different networks that the team has access to. One of the most important is the volunteer team, the 2023 champions. This is led by Rosemary Holmes and Steve Crocker. They are running a team of nearly three dozen volunteers who are visiting our business partners to tell their staff about the bid. They are just fabulous at putting forward what the bid is and at encouraging everybody to pledge their support on our website.
How are you helping to ensure the diversity of Leeds is represented by the bid?
If we get into the second round of interviews, then we will go into more detail and depth about the different local, community, ethnic and cultural groups that will be getting involved. The whole of the city will be brought in at that stage.
We also have lots of local media, small regional papers, radio stations and community groups like Radio Jcom, Asian Express and JLife, that we’d like to work with and say ‘what can we do to help culture in your areas as well as the city centre?’
How can people get involved?
The Leeds 2023 website is a good place to start, or websites like Welcome to Leeds, Visit Leeds and Leeds Inspired all have details of events going on across the city.
There are ‘big ticket’ events like Night Light Leeds, the reopening of Leeds Art Gallery and the Henry Moore exhibit coming up, as well as activities going on across the city every night of every week. It really is a way of reminding us all just what an exciting city we live in.
People are beginning to wake up and notice that Leeds it a city punching above its weight and it is performing above the way we sell it. For too long we’ve been hiding our light under a bushel, but the bid is going to light a big bright beacon above our city for all of the UK and Europe to see.
For more information, visit Leeds2023.co.uk.