The Awakening

Posted 12:00, 11 Jan 2023
By: Anita Morris

Over two days, from 7-9 January 2023, the world’s media started to talk differently about Leeds and millions of people have been introduced to the city afresh. Or for the first time.

Because the leaders of Leeds chose to put culture front and centre, with the backing of local people, LEEDS 2023 and its awe-inspiring opening show ‘The Awakening’ has created a positive shift in the narrative around Leeds.

It’s a lesson in risk-taking and prioritising doing over saying. We’ve sometimes heard Leeds being criticised for lacking ambition, or not taking risks; overshadowed by its peer cities that have ‘handed the keys’ to artists and harnessed the power of culture to define themselves.

No longer.

It was a bold decision to “do it anyway” and hold a year of culture once the UK was excluded from the European Capital of Culture. But Leeds didn’t see that competition as a one-off. The people we’ve worked alongside genuinely are committed to culture being at the heart of the city’s social inclusion and growth. The investment made in pulling together the bid – not just financial but in relationships, momentum, connections and partnerships – was to be built on, not written off. So, doing it anyway set the seal on that commitment.

The audiences at Headingley Stadium on Saturday night and the journalists that watched the show experienced something special and have shared messages, images, articles and words of love and praise on the 1,000 artists, creatives and crew who made it all happen.

These headlines have been written about the city itself and the decision-makers in Leeds should be proud:


“Home of artistic brilliance”

“One of the UK’s hidden cultural gems”

“A city that refused to be silenced”

“The sassy standpoint of the organisers has won praise”

“Lots here to be proud of”

“Leeds gives us an Awakening”

“Leeds decided to take matters into its own hand”

Since Saturday, our work for LEEDS 2023 has led to:

  • 100% positive sentiment
  • At least 395 pieces of positive coverage – locally, regionally, nationally and internationally
  • At least 40 pieces of international coverage in the USA, India, Ireland, Nigeria, Spain, UAE, France, Thailand and beyond.
  • 44 pieces of coverage across UK national media titles including: Channel 4, BBC online, BBC Radio 2, 4, 5 live & 6 Music, The Times, Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, Mail online, Daily Express, I newspaper, Evening Standard, Virgin Radio
  • 27m estimated circulation from print and broadcast editorial
  • 612+m unique visitors to online coverage

356 more days to go. Bring it on!