Leeds 2023 culture plan continues despite Brexit ban

Image source, Simon Dewhurst
Image caption,
The Leeds bid has cost £1m over the past four years

Plans for a £35m "celebration of Leeds" have been announced in the wake of the city's collapsed bid to be 2023 European Capital of Culture.

The European Commission torpedoed the plan last year saying the UK will no longer be eligible to have a host city after it leaves the EU in 2019.

The revised programme includes building a lighthouse in the city as originally proposed in the 2023 plan.

Council bosses say they hope to harness the energy created by the bid.

The proposal includes devising a six-year programme that will culminate in a "year-long celebration of the city's diverse cultures in 2023".

Projects include putting on a "huge" outdoor community theatre production and developing a sculpture festival with the help of the Leeds Art Gallery, Henry Moore Institute, The Hepworth Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

It is unclear if other projects announced as part of the official bid will feature in the revised programme.

Announcing the plan, Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, said an in-principal agreement had been struck with a local business to fund building the lighthouse on the south bank of the river Aire.

The project is inspired by civil engineer John Smeaton who built a 72ft-high lighthouse on Eddystone rocks near Plymouth in 1759.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
The top section of Smeaton's Lighthouse was re-built at Plymouth Hoe after it was dismantled in 1881

Ms Blake said the European Commission's decision to bar the UK had come as a "huge blow" to the city but she did not want the "enthusiasm and energy which has built behind the bid go to waste"

She said: "We want to keep that momentum going and this cultural programme, a direct legacy of our bid, will see many of the ideas submitted in the Leeds 2023 bid brought together and channelled into a new and unique celebration of Leeds which will give the best of the city's culture a chance to shine on a stage it deserves."

More than £1m was spent on developing Leeds' 2023 bid - £200,000 from the city council and £800,000 from private funders.

A budget of £62m had been proposed for the 2023 European Capital of Culture events prior to the UK's decision to leave the EU, of which £12m was expected to be met by the council.

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