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Glass half full as Leeds’ Capital of Culture bid “excludes non-drinkers”


By Elle Rigby

THE ORGANISERS of Leeds’ bid to become Capital of Culture in 2023 might be hoping to raise a celebratory glass if they win the accolade… but what about those who don’t like a tipple?

According to some in the community, not enough focus is placed on providing entertainment and culture in the city for non-drinkers.

International students who are wary of Leeds’ vibrant pub culture and elderly people who might feel intimidated by revelers need to be more catered for, it is claimed.

Bebe Ross, president of the East Asian Committee at Leeds University, puts on non-drinking events for her members every week as she feels they need socials to attend without feeling stigmatised by their lack of desire to throw back the booze.

She does not think that the Culture Capital bid does enough promotion for all of the non-drinking events that Leeds City Council puts on, pointing to the fact that her committee members only found out about the recent Light Night event via the University of Leeds’s Facebook post the night before.

She said that Chinese students in particular feel “afraid” of the drinking culture at university. Ms Ross added: “They joke about it but they are intimidated, they are always saying how it is scary to go out with all the drunk students.

“There is still a huge divide in the Chinese/British student lifestyle. Time and time again I get messages from students asking if it is ‘definitely OK I come because I don’t drink?’.”

Ms Ross stressed the notoriety the city has for wild nightlife, and wanted to see more promotion for other events which would lead to the inclusion of more people, particularly her society members. And publicity for events needs to go beyond merely online promotion to attract particularly older people.

She said: “The promotion is all online, we need to see more billboards, more posters, and more letters about it.”

One pensioner who did attend the Light Night event, Anne Snushall, 74, of Cleckheaton, said she did have her doubts about coming into Leeds on public transport for the show. She said: “If I hadn’t come with my grandchildren I wouldn’t have known about it, let alone managed the journey alone.”

Emily Baldwin, a Leeds Beckett postgraduate on placement at Leeds City Council, has highlighted on a Council Culture Strategy blog that the elderly feel separated from the youth in the city.

Ms Baldwin is currently working on the Culture Strategy and went to talk to a group of elderly people at Age UK in Leeds, who identified that the closure of the tourist information centre at the train station has led to a lack of knowledge of what is going on in the city.

She found that the elderly did not necessarily want to go to ‘events just for old people’ and felt they didn’t know where to find alternatives.

The winning bid for the European Culture Capital will be announced in October 2018, with Leeds up against Cardiff and Milton Keynes.


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