Leeds 2023 opening-ceremony ticket offer tries to harness city's creativity

·3-min read
Headingley rugby stadium
The event will be watched by 15,000 people at Headingley rugby stadium, home of Leeds Rhinos

The price of going to a stadium concert can often be steep - but the organisers of a show in Leeds are not asking for money. They want creativity instead.

The opening ceremony for the city's year of culture, in 2023, featuring singer Corinne Bailey Rae and poet laureate Simon Armitage, will be free.

But it will be open to only people who submit an artistic creation of some sort with their ticket application.

They could be anything from doodles to cakes to rap videos, organisers said.

"This unique way to receive a ticket is designed to showcase the artistic talent, creativity and brilliance of the people of Leeds," a statement said.

A crowd of 15,000 will watch broadcaster Gabby Logan host The Awakening, at Headingley rugby stadium, in January.

Co-director Alan Lane said Leeds was a city where "in every household, in every community there is quiet, bright shining talent".

Leeds 2023 opening ceremony co-directors Kully Thiari (left) and Alan Lane
The opening ceremony will be directed by Kully Thiari and Alan Lane

"The mission of The Awakening is to celebrate this in a world that too often decides that not all of us are important but bit players in the epic movie of national news, customers to what others are selling.

"The Awakening will strike back at that, certain of the power and creativity that we all have, and, specifically, to proudly declare that Leeds is full of brilliance - creative, cultural, artistic brilliance - to declare it to the nation."

People can enter the ballot by uploading their creations online or dropping them into one of the yellow art boxes around the city.

"Paint splashes, doodles, portraits made of pasta, Lego sculptures, bus-stop raps, cakes and papier-mache models; photographs, videos and audio recordings of anything and everything can be submitted to the ballot," organisers said.

Song contest

Some of the submissions will be included in the event but ticket allocation will not be judged on artistic merit - the seats will be awarded at random to those who enter the ballot, which closes on 25 November.

"We believe that in every heart, everyone has a creative impulse, a desire to tell their story and leave their mark," Leeds 2023 creative director Kully Thiarai said.

"This city's brimming with creativity, and we want to awaken everyone to it both here and nationally and tell the story of Leeds in a different way."

The stadium show will also feature performers ranging from the musicians and singers of Opera North to footballer-turned-rapper Graft.

It will kick off Leeds 2023, which stems from the city's application to be European Capital of Culture.

When UK cities were dropped from that scheme because of Brexit, Leeds decided it would go ahead and hold its own programme of cultural events anyway.

Other projects will include a mobile observatory that will tour the city, and a Mexican-inspired nine-day "celebration of life and death that reimagines Day of the Dead with the people of Yorkshire".

Organisers hope next year's Eurovision will also be one of the highlights, after Leeds made the shortlist to host next year's song contest.