Stadium show launches year of culture after Brexit blow

January 9, 2023 11:05 am

Carnival dancers and musicians gave a new flavour to the Kaiser Chiefs' I Predict A Riot. [Source: BBC]

Thousands of people have watched a stadium show to launch a year of culture in Leeds, which is staging its own 12-month cultural celebrations after Brexit scuppered its chances of being the European Capital of Culture.

Locally-born stars including poet laureate Simon Armitage, singer Corinne Bailey Rae and presenter George Webster performed at the Leeds 2023 opening ceremony at Headingley rugby ground.

It ended with illuminated drones forming a “sleeping giant” over the stadium as a metaphor for the city.

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The event was titled The Awakening, and Armitage and his band LYR performed a specially-written ode to the city, in which he urged: “Wake up Leeds, you’ve got gold in your veins.”

Ten thousand tickets were given away for the show, which was hosted at the home of the Leeds Rhinos by BBC Radio Leeds presenter Sanchez Payne and BBC Sport’s Gabby Logan.

The latter is one of Leeds’ most famous daughters, having been born in the city a year before her father Terry Yorath won a league title with Leeds United.

Current sporting stars who took part in the show included Paralympian Kadeena Cox and rugby league player-turned-coach Jamie Jones-Buchanan.

The chorus of Opera North joined Chumbawamba frontman Dunstan Bruce and Leeds band Hope and Social for a rousing performance of Chumbawamba’s 1997 anthem Tubthumping.

The next generation of local talent was on show in the form of rock band The Solar Jets – whose members are aged just nine.

Rap Game UK and Mobo Award winner Graft also performed, as did fellow musicians Testament, Ntantu, Aziz Ibrahim and tabla maestro Inder Goldfinger.

A steel drum cover version of I Predict A Riot by Kaiser Chiefs – another Leeds success story – was accompanied by dozens of dancers in colourful carnival costumes, representing one of the longest-running West Indian carnivals in the UK.

Webster, the first Cbeebies presenter with Down’s syndrome, who recently won a Bafta Award and starred on the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special, delivered an impassioned speech with his father.

This year was due to be the UK’s turn to have a European Capital of Culture for the first time since Liverpool held the title in 2008.