Something special is happening in West Yorkshire right now. You could describe it as a cultural reckoning as Leeds, Kirklees, Wakefield, Calderdale and Bradford all embark on their own celebrations of what makes each place unique through year-long cultural programmes between 2023-2025.

It could also be described as a Year of Culture extravaganza.

What’s the point of all of this?

What’s the legacy going to be?

Sometimes it can feel like we’re stopping ourselves before we’ve even started.

These questions fuelled a daylong event called Here Today Gone Tomorrow? which brought together producers, funders, policy makers and experts all invested in major events from around the world right here in West Yorkshire.

‘We need major events because we have major challenges’

This was the opening provocation from Sjoerd Bootsma, Artistic Director of Arcadia (Leeuwarden, The Netherlands), who spoke to us about the journey from European Capital of Culture to legacy body. In the depths of evaluation and thousands of sticky notes (AKA ‘consultation’) one resounding request of the legacy from Leeuwarden 2018 stood sharp –

‘Give us a reason to do something together!’

Whether discussing access, sustainability, internationalism or evaluation this idea of coming together, of imagining new ways of being together at scale ran throughout the day. With lessons learnt from those who have been there and done it in Liverpool, Birmingham and Hull, as well as beyond the UK border with delegates from across the European Capital of Culture programme.

The conference was the culminating moment of a 9 month programme of knowledge transfer and exchange, led by LEEDS 2023 and Bradford 2025 in collaboration with Kirklees Year of Music, Culturedale and Our Year Wakefield. The programme sought to identify opportunities for more formalised routes for sharing learning between major events, using this rare moment in West Yorkshire as a unique catalyst to test different approaches.

Industry leaders in research and evaluation debated if we are measuring the right things: is culture really the space to solve some of societies most epic crisis, and is it equitable to expect impact between artistic and sporting major events to be at the same scale when the budgets never are?

How do we share learning when the fear of failure is so omnipresent through the external pressures applied in the current political landscape?

Where and how does the learning from major events apply to the ‘business as usual’ culture sector?

These were big questions, pertinent to the big outputs demanded of cultural programmes of this scale.

We’re still gathering the feedback from those who were there but anecdotally I can tell you that the energy in the room was golden. Honestly, I didn’t think planning a conference would be a big highlight in the context of the crazy and beautiful programme I’d had the privilege of being part of for LEEDS 2023. But being in that room with those people brought into sharp focus the passion and expertise which drives these major events. Its not the targets, the impact measurements, or the programme – it’s the people.

As Raidene Carter, Executive Producer of Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, said:

Major events are unbelievable acts of collaboration.


And in West Yorkshire right now we have this rare moment to bring together an entire region right the way up to 2025 when Bradford takes its title as the UK City of Culture. This moment right now gives us a reason to think about what we can do collectively as a region together in the future – but understanding the purpose of what we do, and how that informs our collective legacy in West Yorkshire, is key. I think Claire McColgan, Director of Culture Liverpool put it best on the day:

Culture can’t solve everything but it can tell a story in a different way, in a way people want to hear.


The final report of Shared Cultural Futures will be available through Spirit of 2012 in late spring 2024, evaluation from LEEDS 2023 will be available later this year and Bradford 2025, UK City of Culture begins in full in January next year.

Learn more

Shared Cultural Futures project page

Volunteering Cities

Coventry City of Culture

Hull City of Culture