Leeds City Council – Councillor Judith Blake CBE

Leeds City Council's Judith Blake CBE shortlisted for Best Arts Champion - Councillor in the 2020 Hearts for the Arts Awards


In a time when others have cut back on their cultural provision Cllr Blake has supported the maintenance and indeed development of the city’s cultural organisations and facilities. 

Councillor Judith Blake CBE is the first female Leader of Leeds City Council and Executive Member for Culture and the Economy. Under her watch she has championed culture and the arts with the aim of establishing Leeds as a city with a reputation that allows the city to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the world’s leading cultural hubs. Cllr Blake championed the City’s abortive bid to be European Capital of Culture in 2023 and when the EU pulled that opportunity, she created cross party support and financial seed funding for Leeds to deliver a six-year programme of cultural activity culminating in a year of cultural activity and celebration in 2023. 

She has supported the redevelopment of the Leeds Playhouse and encouraged and supported high profile international festivals like the Yorkshire Sculpture International 100 day celebration of sculpture which all demonstrate the role that arts and culture is playing in the economic life of the city. This is further evidenced by the relocation of Channel 4 to the city; which as a commissioning body will attract many suppliers and creatives to the city. She has played a key role in raising Leeds’ profile as a major cultural centre.

Cllr Blake has maintained the arts grants and funding for the council’s own cultural facilities like museums and galleries. She was instrumental in winning the Euro cities award for partnership working in 2018, competing against 170 cities in the Euro cities network. 

Cllr Blake has led the Council to foster an environment where culture is such a key part of life in Leeds, a place where communities have a voice. This has huge benefits for residents, helping us work together to meet challenges such as mental health and social isolation as well as supporting community cohesion and creating sustainable employment. 

What the judges said:

“Exciting to see a Cllr using culture, in this case back the museums sector in a bold way, to help a city find its voice. These large projects that carry contemporary issues such as sustainability into the cities consciousness are only deliverable through the partnership working sought by Cllr Blake.”

“The work being done by Councillor Judith Blake to develop Leeds as a leading cultural hub is phenomenal, from ensuring the ongoing heritage budget to leading the local council to foster an environment where culture is a key part of life in the area.”