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Review: Our suburbs name-dropped at Leeds 2023 launch event 

By Damon Cooper, community reporter

Art that inspires can sometimes be found on the back of toilet doors in the most depressing of public bathrooms, on subway walls or in art galleries.

The idea of anyone being able to create inspiring art anywhere – but on a much grander scale – was the theme as our city became a canvas for creativity when Leeds 2023 launched at Headingley stadium on Saturday night. 

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Dubbed ‘The Awakening’, this launch event was hosted by TV presenter Gabby Logan and Sanchez Payne from BBC Radio Leeds.

An excitable pair who got proceedings under way with an opening film featuring footage of  javelin, rugby, football, cycling, food, swimming, art, our urban landscape and much more to the sound of Something Good By Utah Saints. 

You can watch that here:

The night took a political turn when Danny Boys’ speech from the film Brassed Off was recited by an artist on screen before the chorus of Opera North joined forces with Leeds band Hope and Social plus Chumbawamba frontman Dunstan Bruce for a special rendition of the latter’s 1997 hit ‘I get Knocked Down’ was performed live. In reference to both, our industries are getting destroyed, we are knocked down but we must try getting up again. 

Ian Youngs, BBC arts & entertainment reporter, put it best in his tweet: “The lyric “pissing the night away” has never sounded more glorious than being sung by the chorus of @Opera_North in Tubthumping at #LEEDS2023 opening ceremony with the mighty @hopeandsocial and Dunstan from Chumbawamba.” 

Our biggest star on stage from West Leeds was Bramley’s Jamie Jones-Buchanan who talked about watching the sport he loved from the stands growing up to becoming a professional rugby league player as he got older.

He shone brightly as he waxed lyrical how the sport has become more inclusive with women’s, wheelchair and physical disability rugby league teams now given their own chance to shine. 

Kirkstall Road-based Manjit’s Kitchen got a well-deserved moment in the spotlight with Gabby Logan praising the paneer wraps in particular. I really look forward to seeing how our city’s food is celebrated throughout the course of this year. 

A number of our suburbs in West Leeds were name dropped during poetic performances by Denmarc Creary, Testament, Simon Armitage and LYR from Bramley, Armley, Kirkstall right though to Pudsey and others, but it didn’t seem Farsley got a look in all night. 

For me, the finale with Corinne Bailey Rae was my highlight with two soulful renditions of her songs.

She just had that all-round star quality that very few of us will ever have but it’s a delight she graced the stage alongside our city’s rich tapestry of talents. My big hope is that some of those in the audience aspiring to showcase their abilities will get the opportunity too. 

I went to the Leeds 2023 After Party At Manhatta in Headingley thanks to an invitation from CBBC Presenter George Webster, who used to do parkrun with a friend of mine. He delivered an amazing speech on stage and is a fantastic champion for disabled people. 

There’s still so much more work to be done though, so if your a creative living in West Leeds then don’t hesitate getting in touch with your local neighbourhood host: 

Host:  Kimberly Frangos 

Ward: Armley

Email: armleyhost@leeds2023.co.uk 

Host: Dean Patrick 

Ward: Bramley & Stanningley

Email: bramstanhost@leeds2023.co.uk

Host: Ian Thursfield  

Ward: Farnley & Wortley

Email: farnwort@leeds2023.co.uk

Host: Alaina Dunne

Ward: Calverley & Farsley 

Email: calvfars@leeds2023.co.uk

Host: Nathen Shipley

Ward: Kirkstall 

Email: kirkstallhost@leeds2023.co.uk 

Host: Kate Frazer

Ward: Pudsey

Email: pudseyhost@leeds2023.co.uk

It has been an inspiring start by the team behind Leeds 2023 and they deserve a lot of credit for what they put together so far.

However, the hard work starts now and it’s the journey this team takes unknown creatives on throughout the year that will really count. Leeds has the people and the infrastructure to thrive but now needs its advocates. 

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