The arts and culture sector in Leeds is set for a significant post-COVID recovery boost thanks to successful bids for important grant funding.
Leeds City Council is one of a number of organisations in the city which have been awarded a share of Arts Council England’s Cultural Recovery Fund, giving the authority’s venues crucial extra support to welcome back visitors after the pandemic.
The council has been given a grant of £302,750, which will be spent on relaunching the city’s Arts Events and Venues programme and its nine museums and galleries sites and offering their millions of annual visitors a range of new, exciting and engaging cultural experiences both online and in person.
Despite being largely closed over the course of the pandemic, the city’s arts and culture venues have continued to engage tens of thousands of visitors through a huge range of online activities and performances.
These have included live-streamed recitals from Leeds Town Hall’s stunning organ, virtual activities as part of the city’s annual Light Night event and online museum exhibitions and learning resources all designed to support people’s mental health and give people in Leeds a chance to come together remotely.
Since March 2020 the Leeds Museums and Galleries website has seen 50,000 visits to their new virtual visit section and more than 18,000 hours of footage watched on their YouTube channel.
Leeds Arts and Events Venues websites, including Leeds Town Hall, Millennium Square and The Carriageworks Theatre have seen 1,319,472 visits over the past year.
To help this work continue after the pandemic, The Carriageworks Theatre and Leeds Town Hall will use the new grant funding to help build a programme featuring brand new writing, major orchestral concerts, chamber music, spoken word and live music specifically tailored for smaller audiences.
Investment in new technology will also enable more performances to be live streamed so socially disadvantaged groups or residents unable to travel can have more opportunities to attend virtually, making the programme more inclusive.
The grant will also help Leeds, Museums and Galleries to give visitors a chance to rediscover areas of their buildings which have been off limits during the pandemic.
Staff on site will help make sure visits continue to be COVID secure and a range of new post-lockdown events will be planned based on detailed feedback received from visitors over the past 10 months.
These will include a new wellbeing events programme at Lotherton Hall, new trails in the landscape at Temple Newsam and Lotherton, smaller-scale outdoor performing arts events at Lotherton as well older people’s outreach and on site sessions.
The service will also expand its already extensive work with community and cultural organisations and creative practitioners in the city.
Investment of the grant funding is also expected to be a catalyst for the recovery of the arts and culture sector as whole in Leeds, with all services working closely with independent and community based event planners, contributors and performers.
Councillor Mary Harland, Leeds City Council’s executive member for economy and culture, said: “Throughout the pandemic, staff across our arts and cultural venues have shown such remarkable resilience and creativity, keeping audiences engaged and enthralled despite the immense challenges they have faced.
“This grant represents a huge endorsement of their work and just reward for the help, hope and entertainment they have brought to tens of thousands of people in Leeds during one of toughest times the city has faced in recent memory.
“Everyone working in our venues cannot wait to open their doors again and this funding will also support their plans to do so safely and sustainably so the people of Leeds can confidently enjoy the city’s unique cultural offering once again.”