It’s a dizzying five years since I was a student at the University of Leeds, but the vibrancy of my days there isn’t easy to forget.
The feeling of leaving home for the first time, moving to a new city and being freshly 18 years old is pretty much unbeatable – I remember the sense of promise and adventure as I stepped out into a gusty Leeds September, not knowing what lay ahead, but knowing it was mine for the taking.
So when Leeds BID and Chapter 81 approached me with a new film concept for the Welcome Back to Leeds campaign, I knew exactly the energy I needed to channel into the script. Welcome Back to Leeds came to life as our City began to recover from the Covid-19 lockdown. It takes the form of a website, hosting information and a series of short films – the latest of which is an inspirational call to arms for the students returning and moving to Leeds in the coming weeks.
Designed to celebrate the unmatched educational experiences Leeds has to offer, alongside the dynamic and diverse opportunities, industries and cultures here, the film is a beacon of strength and hope in the wake of what’s been a testing year.
My clearest memories of starting my time in Leeds are the tangible ones: The wind on my cheeks, the echo of wooden library chairs. The smell of Brudenell Social Club and the way my ears would ring after a night there. Friends’ laughter, the taste of a late-night kebab – the flash of my mum’s camera as I posed for a graduation photo. I tried to weave some of these evocative sensations into the rhyme and rhythm of my script, capturing a sense of ripe possibility and ‘new horizons’ alongside them. After the year we’ve had, I wouldn’t blame anyone for forgetting that tingly feeling of hope and anticipation – so I took it upon myself to remind them, and I hope I’ve done it justice.
The film’s visuals show ‘a day in the life’ of four different students in Leeds – all following different paths and exploring the City in contrasting ways. A budding sportsman, an aspiring musician, a keen foodie and an artist make their way through iconic locations as a line-up of Leeds alumni voices my script.
It’s inspiring to hear former students of Leeds Beckett, the Conservatoire, Leeds Art University breathe life into the words – and over an uplifting soundtrack, the whole thing becomes a compelling, empowering vision of what’s possible for students here.
Voices include Leeds Rhinos’ Jamie Jones Buchanan; Olympic race walker, Tom Bosworth; Leeds United Community and Partnerships Officer, Abigail Lee; and Submotion Orchestra singer, Ruby Wood. We also hear sound engineer, Aamir Yaqub; DJ and producer, Eden Prince; 3D animator, Rosie Summers; and Hungry Sandwich Club designers, Martin O’Dea and Andy Foster.The film went live last week, and you can watch it here (and explore all the other great content on the Welcome to Leeds site while you’re there.
Here are Kate’s words to the film:
This is your city. Your freedom, your space The place you call home – the dream you embrace This is your stage, blank page, clean state Your big break, your escape, your name to make The summer’s behind us, the long nights are calling When music and laughter stretch into the morning With golden owls, bitter winds, craft and creativity Mill towers and chimneys casting sunlight in symmetry The place where you celebrate, communicate, innovate The streets where you march for the causes you advocate Where the things you love most Form the best friends you’ll ever make The mates for a lifetime. Walking home in a sunrise Leaving the library at the stroke of midnight Or bracing yourself to step into the limelight Never knowing when a conversation Could change your whole life It's been a long year, but since when did that stop us? We take stock, we rebuild, make new plans, readjust And we come back to Leeds, where tomorrow is ours Where the hearts are as kind as the voices are loud With butterflies in our bellies, we count the hours To live independently, find an identity Be part of a legacy we can be proud of Leeds This is how we keep growing Keep reaching for more How we build strength to do what we couldn’t before Learning, expanding, reading, reaching highs From green dales to great peaks, sandstone to blue sky Raise your glass, come inside, let us sit for a while In the City that feels like a curve of a smile A new year awaits, your future’s in sight So welcome back to Leeds This is your time