A Closer Look at Leeds City Centre with Karen Butler, Head of Place Management and Delivery at LeedsBID

Placemaking or simply making a place better is at the core of a Business Improvement District and LeedsBID is investing in the city to make Leeds fabulous, raising its profile and changing perceptions.

So, what is it that makes places great? Well, think about your favourite place; wherever and whatever it is, there will be an association with a great experience – a feeling, a moment, a memory that you’ll want to revisit. These experiences are powerful; details might be forgotten but emotions remain with us. Great places tug at the heart. Emotions drive decisions, every day decisions about which route you walk or where you will stop to rest, for a coffee, to people watch, to read a book, to meet friends as well as those big, life changing decisions – where to live, study, work. What we feel about a place is influenced by what experiences we’ve had; the best places cater for everyone, are multigenerational and dynamic, changing and morphing over time.

Leeds is already a great place, but there’s a new appetite, a new energy in the city and more people moving in. What can we do to make Leeds a great place for those who already live and work here?

Great public space is a must, especially different types of spaces for everyone to use. One of Leeds’ unique qualities is that we are a very compact city – easily walkable, friendly and feeling more like a small community. The challenge to this is that it means there’s competition for space, especially public space, so what we have, we need to cherish, to look after and use. And how do we feel about our city? Is it clean? Is it safe? Is it somewhere we want to spend time?

LeedsBID Street Rangers are making a huge difference, power washing the streets and removing chewing gum; having a place that’s clean changes how we feel about it and how we treat it. There’s new art popping up everywhere. LeedsBID, working with East Street Arts, has commissioned five new pieces – A City Less Grey- adding colour and unique art in prominent locations to brighten up the city and the installation at Leeds Station is the tallest outdoor mural in the UK. It adds to the George Street Welcome by Nathan Evans and the Letters of Leeds inside the station, which have become an iconic meeting point and make a fabulous photo backdrop. The letters were one of the first installations by LeedsBID, designed and made by local artists, with new designs commissioned every year.

On the waterfront, at The Calls, there’s some funky green Danish seating that’s popped up, adding a splash of vibrant colour. Seats are a theme, it seems – the eagle eyed of you may have already seen the blue and black deckchairs popping up in the sunshine in Park Square and Sovereign Square – so much better than sitting on damp grass, don’t you think? Adding music has taken it to another level and it’s been great to bring exceptionally talented students from Leeds College of Music into the mix with regular lunchtime sessions. LeedsBID brought Wimbledon to Bond Court and Wellington Place in June, with live tennis screened daily (weather permitting!) and more deck chairs, of course! More excitement is planned for later in the summer, with music popping up at different locations across the city.

As a city, we have so much to celebrate – design, performance, music, comedy and dance run through our veins. We have a wealth of talent so let’s celebrate it and tell the world what a fantastic opportunity Leeds is. It’s time for Leeds to shine; there’s a new confidence around so come on, let’s be proud of our city and get our swagger on!

Find out more about LeedsBID and its work in Leeds city centre at