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Adopting a creative, rigorous approach to researching LEEDS 2023

A cyclist in red riding past a large mural which reads 'Creativity takes Courage' - The Centre for Cultural Value

The Centre for Cultural Value will explore the cultural value and social impact of LEEDS 2023.

Working in collaboration with The Audience Agency (TAA) and the University of Leeds’ Horizons Institute, the Centre is undertaking research activities to capture and articulate the value of LEEDS 2023 for artists, audiences, communities and the city region as a whole.

The year-long programme of culture was developed when the city’s bid to become the European City of Culture was derailed by the UK leaving the EU. Various cultural activities are happening across the city over the course of the year, including large-scale events, new art trails and community projects.

Ben Walmsley, Director at the Centre for Cultural Value, says:

With LEEDS 2023 now underway, the Centre has begun to use creative, participatory research methods to develop a robust, people-centred understanding of the programme’s impact. These insights can support legacy planning within Leeds and across the city region and inform future cultural programmes, such as Bradford 2025.

Exploring different perspectives and themes

The Centre will lead three strands of research work into LEEDS 2023:

Capturing the social value and impact

Dr John Wright, our Research Associate, will capture stories from artists involved in the programme. He will use the Centre’s dedicated Valuing Culture platform, a free online site designed to work as a living archive of cultural value.

John will explore artists’ perspectives on their professional development. He will also investigate whether artist-led activities have helped support and diversify the cultural ecosystems in Leeds, and if and how artists will continue to engage with residents and communities.

Researcher Dr Robyn Dowlen will continue her work for the Centre on understanding outcomes relating to health and wellbeing. Her research will explore whether participating in LEEDS 2023 activities – such as 1001 Stories – has led to a greater connectedness to places and spaces within the community. She will also investigate how the programme has impacted people’s and communities’ self-reported sense of happiness and wellbeing.

We will use qualitative research methods to undertake this work, including creative workshops, object handling and arts-based methods. Our Evaluation Principles will underpin our work as we seek to adopt a beneficial, rigorous, people-centred and socially-engaged approach.

Linked to this, PhD student Ava Podgorski will investigate how researchers can most effectively evaluate the social impact of cultural participation and will use “listening labs” to explore the legacy of the programme as a case study.

Exploring co-creative practices

Postdoctoral researcher Alex De Little is funded by the Horizons Institute and attached to the Centre to undertake a longitudinal evaluation of the My Leeds 2023 Neighbourhood Hosts, a community-based project which aims to work with residents across Leeds to explore their stories and culture.

Working closely with the LEEDS 2023 team, Alex will “hang out” with neighbourhood hosts and other LEEDS 2023 project participants. Using this research approach, he will explore the different co-creation processes employed to help inform the programme’s legacy planning.

Connecting policymakers with research

We will work closely with Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority to support the legacy implementation of LEEDS 2023 and help place the research and evaluation from the event at the heart of the region’s ongoing cultural strategy.  We will engage with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) on future funding and research for the wider UK Cities of Culture programme.

Interested in learning more about our research work around Cities of Culture and LEEDS 2023? Sign up for our newsletter to receive updates straight to your inbox.



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