Leeds, Ljubljana and Oulu have been recognised by EUROCITIES, winning awards for their work in cooperation, innovation and participation.
The cities were chosen from an initial 30 applicants for the annual EUROCITIES Awards. Each were chosen by a jury with the winners demonstrating outstanding achievement as a ‘creative, competitive city’–this year’s theme.
Leeds won for cooperation with its ‘Leeds 2023’ project that aims to transform the city’s economy through culture and creativity. After applying for the EU’s Capital of Culture 2023, the city, along with other UK applicants, were told that due to Brexit they were no longer qualified to enter.
“We did what we think was a very Leeds and Yorkshire thing and thought, ‘Well, who do they think they are?’,” Judith Blake, Leader, Leeds City Council, told Cities Today. “We went back to all of the partners and asked them what they thought, and we got a resounding positive yes to go forward. It’s a real statement of faith from everyone that has been involved.”
Blake added that one of the advantages of the setback is that the city is no longer constrained by European rules and so can broaden its scope to include sport.
The city has also announced a collaboration with clothing company, Burberry. The two will work to deliver programmes of culture for children in eight schools in the region. Kings College will verify the programme to demonstrate the importance of culture to children.
In her work with Core Cities, a group of the UK’s eight largest cities, Blake said that offers of participation with the UK government on Brexit negotiations have not been taken seriously.
“[Cities] are the economic drivers of growth in the country,” she said. “We understand our local economies very well and we already work on a European and international level in terms of attracting investment. We are stepping up and saying that we want to be part of whatever the [Brexit] outcome is.”
The award for innovation was won by Ljubljana for its ‘RogLab’ project that connects and supports entrepreneurs and creatives, and offers a space to co-create and prototype new ideas. Meanwhile, Oulu won for participation with its ‘Chaos challenge’ project that asks citizens each year to come up with ideas to help make the city more attractive for 15- to 29-year-olds.