Leeds City Council and Leeds-headquartered social enterprise Ahead Partnership (@AheadP_ship) have joined forces to launch a challenge that will help young people across Leeds shape the future of their town or city centre in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. With the rise of home-working and online shopping impacting the way people now travel, study and shop, the creative challenge will help shape vibrant, reimagined centres across Leeds fit for the future and next generation.

Forming part of a wider Council project exploring the future of Leeds over the next 10 years, the Find Your Centre challenge will seek the views of young people aged 11-18 years old living in Leeds. Entries can focus on Leeds city centre, or young people may choose to think about a local centre – such as Armley, Morley or Kirkstall – and share what they think would make their centre a great place to live, work and visit in the future.

Putting creativity at the centre of the challenge, young people can submit their entries through a medium of their choice – such as photos, artwork, podcasts, videos and blogs - by 31 October 2021. Shortlisted winning entrants will then be invited to an exclusive youth voice event where they can share their views on the future of the city centre with Council members, providing a great opportunity to have their voice heard and help inform real change.

Stephanie Burras CBE, Chief Executive at Ahead Partnership, a social enterprise that works with businesses of different sizes and sectors to design and deliver social value projects that create positive change within society, said:

“Throughout the last year and a half, we’ve seen a clear shift in the way people use town and city centres, but while home-working and successive lockdowns have impacted footfall, it’s clear that centres continue to play an important role in community cohesion and local identity as people return to work and socialising.

“We’re really pleased to be partnering with Leeds City Council on this important initiative. Young people will be the ones travelling to, living, working and enjoying our centres in the future, so it’s vital that we get their views now to shape a bright future for the places around them.”

Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Deputy Leader of Council and Executive Member for Economy, Culture and Education at Leeds City Council, added:

“It is really important for young people to have a voice in the future of Leeds, so it is really pleasing that we can work alongside Ahead Partnership to bring their voices to the fore. I am really looking forward to seeing the creative entries and listen to the diverse views from across our city. I would encourage everyone between the age of 11-18 to get involved and I look forward to being able to welcome the winners to the youth voice event.”

While increased dependence on technology and social distancing restrictions have played a part in creating a reduction in visitors to the city centre – for example July saw weekday footfall in Leeds City Centre fall to 50% of that for comparator dates in 2019[1] - other factors such as a move to support local independent businesses affirm the continued importance of our centres, and this challenge offers the opportunity to shape an inclusive and prosperous future for the places across Leeds.

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