September 16, 2021
Leeds is alive: The power of diversity in our city
Growth is no stranger to Leeds. Hailed as the UK’s fastest growing metropolis outside of London and boasting a 10 percent population increase since 2002, there’s no question our city is thriving, multiplying and embracing new frontiers every day.
As the pace of change proliferates, diversity becomes a more important aspect of our present and future lives than ever before. And it’s down to us as dwellers of a city to embrace that sense of multiplicity and drive it forward – championing new opinions, thinking and ideas as well as the many different backgrounds, identities and ethnicities that make up the fabric of Leeds.
The pandemic highlighted issues surrounding diversity in a cold new light. We saw how the impact of Covid-19 hit marginalised groups hardest, with women, the LGBTQ+ community, people of colour and working parents most likely to struggle – both in the workplace and at home.
Words and actions are our most powerful tools when it comes to raising awareness around diversity and bringing the full vibrancy of our city to life. The past few months have seen an array of events, conversations and ideas put acceptance at the top of the agenda in Leeds – and if we want to continue our journey of growth, that momentum must build.
Leeds International Festival of Ideas (LIFI) has put a raft of contrasting perspectives centre-stage with its 2021 line-up of panel discussions, Q&As and talks. Embracing a different energy was an important move for the festival, and in a year where answers and certainty have become the most coveted commodities, sharing ideas seemed like the obvious direction to take.
LIFI’s first event, ‘Are we more lonely?’ drew a crowd of more than 160 to City Varieties, where an all-female panel including Alix Fox, Deborah Frances White and Dr Melrose Stewart MBE discussed the impact of loneliness on different communities and individuals – exploring how coping mechanisms and experiences differ across the spectrum of society.
Elsewhere, more mainstream events are broadening their lineups and bringing more diverse elements to their repertoire. Chow Down’s first drag show event went down a storm in September, signalling a move towards celebrating the LGBTQ+ community and welcoming a greater variety of entertainment to the programme.
Moves like this are crucial in making sure a message of inclusivity lives and breathes in our city – somewhere Leeds Digital Festival is another force for good. With this year’s programme featuring a panel on diversity in entrepreneurship, an LGBTQ+ hack launch, and a discussion of how to build a team that women want to be part of (to name but a few) the festival is placing diversity firmly at the heart of the conversation.
Because to really enable growth through inclusion, we have to go beyond token gestures and ask the difficult questions as well as taking the easy steps. And right now, Leeds is moving in an exciting direction – underpinning the attention-grabbing with the thought-provoking by welcoming new ideas and allowing the conversation to take its natural course.
This is only the start, and for the future to work in the favour of every community and individual who calls this place home (and beyond), it has to be. If the world is coming back to life – as the message that blares from every platform boldly goes – then diversity must be its beating heart.