"Last month, we received the news that the UK will not be allowed to host the European Capital of Culture in 2023 due to its departure from the EU, scuppering Leeds’s chance of winning the title. This is a massive blow for both the city and the University and yet another harsh reminder of the consequences of Brexit. Given that some of the most promising artists and creatives are on our campus, and coming from a theatrical background, I and the students of Leeds can only share the city’s disappointment.
However, our disappointment should not blind us from the reality that; this is both an opportunity and a wake-up call for the city to look beyond Leeds 2023 in its celebration of Culture and Creativity. To put it simply, the Celebration should not stop just because there isn’t a badge of honour to win. Rather, Culture and creativity should continue to be celebrated in both the University and the city of Leeds, a city filled with resources and talent: from new talent emerging from the universities and colleges to the local artists and musicians who travel to the city centre from the outskirts. It would be a great disservice to the creators and consumers of arts and culture in Leeds to stop the commitment to celebrate culture and creativity simply because we are no longer in a competition. We can still be a European capital of culture without the title.
But becoming an European city that celebrates arts and culture means more than just funding artists in the city. Furthermore, the fact that we are no longer in the contest provides an opportunity to redirect some of our efforts to other areas which can make a difference in the city. Part of being a European capital of culture should be celebrating the diverse European cultures found within Leeds, which should be accompanied by a commitment to the the well-being of European migrants in the city. We ALL need to do more in terms of social policy and public services to prevent the social exclusion of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers; especially those who are vulnerable European citizens in our city at the risk of discrimination and exploitation.
Finally, instead of working towards a shiny badge we should change our focus to community cohesion and development: through practical support for education, employment and housing for everyone in our city. There is SO MUCH that the major stakeholders in Leeds 2023 can do towards this end, and I hope that our exit from the official bid will be a turning point rather than a full stop.
This is both a disheartening time for the city, and also the student population whom we represent. The Union will continue its efforts to celebrate and welcome European students, and the culture they bring with them and we encourage all of our students to continue in their own efforts also."
George Bissett You Community Officer