Looking back on LEEDS 2023… interview with directors Kully Thiarai and Emma Beverley – podcast

Kully Thiarai in a pink shirt & Emma Beverley in a black top stand outside art installation 'Making A Stand'.

Kully Thiarai & Emma Beverley (l-r) outside art installation ‘Making A Stand’. Source: leeds2023.co.uk

Listen to our interview with the LEEDS 2023 directors via the player below or Apple podcasts. 

Last year, the city of Leeds held its Year of Culture – a 12-month programme of arts and culture events, delivered by LEEDS 2023.

Following a rejected bid to be European Capital of Culture on the grounds that UK cities were exempt after we left the EU, the bid organisers, the council and many others in the city decided to go ahead with their own year-long festival of culture. However, they did so without the budget or the frameworks that come with European Capital or UK City of Culture status.

Planned during a pandemic and carried out in a time of huge economic uncertainty – especially for the creative sector – the Year of Culture provided a mixture of self-produced events, community engagement projects, and partnerships with creatives from Leeds & around the world.

Now the dust has settled, how do its leaders feel about it? And what did it take to deliver a project of this scale?

We sat down with Kully Thiarai, Creative Director & CEO, and Emma Beverley, Programme Director, of LEEDS 2023 for an honest reflection on this eventful year. From the challenge of delivering their programme through such uncertainty, to their relationship with the existing Leeds cultural sector and what the project has done for the city, the directors look back on the Year of Culture in this definitive discussion about LEEDS 2023.

This conversation was recorded at Eiger Studios.


  • 3:16 – Kully and Emma’s roles in LEEDS 2023

  • 8:06 – What does it take to deliver a Year of Culture?

  • 27:24 – The personal impact of delivering a YoC

  • 37:55 – LEEDS 2023 staff & key events

  • 47:52 – Working with Leeds’ culture sector

  • 56:12 – Advice for the wider culture sector

  • 1:08:29 – Highlights from the YoC

A transcript of our conversation is downloadable here.


The State of the Arts
The State of the Arts
Looking back on LEEDS 2023... interview with directors Kully Thiarai and Emma Beverley – podcast