EX[S]PORTS is a partnership project funded by Creative Europe that will explore the relations between arts and sports sectors during 21 months of projects, events and residencies linking practitioners and audiences throughout three countries.


EX[S]PORTS partnership is driven forward by three partners, East Street Arts (Leeds, UK), L’Entorse (Lille, FR) and Vooruit (Ghent, BE). While drawing on their previous and successful collaborations, each partner will bring its experience, skills and network to the partnership.

Building bridges between arts and sports:

Across each of the three countries, a gap separating the world of art and sport has been identified and by excluding each other, these two spheres miss out on mutual improvement. EX[S]PORTS partnership aspires to put an end to this divide, and demonstrate the relevance and efficiency of creating bridges between arts and sports.

Firstly EX[S]PORTS will help the outstanding works stemming from the dialogue between contemporary arts and sport imaginaries to get the recognition they deserve. Then, sport being a vector of community involvement and belonging for 70 millions of European practitioners, establishing connection between arts and sports will enhance audience development and social inclusion. Finally the way EX[S]PORTS considers the sport sector through this partnership stands as an innovative model, and will open new resources and market opportunities for the creative economy.


EX[S]PORTS partners will celebrate the union of art and sport through three themes that reflect the cultural landscape, traditions and history that their cities share: Art and Bicycle, Watersports and Team sports & Identities. Each partner will allocate time and space for the creation or adaptation of projects responding to those themes, while involving local communities.

Summer 2016:

East Street Arts have matched UK artists Neville Gabie and Alan Ward with a research project based in Gent in Belgium that follows the story of a Women’s Football team, one of nine football stories linked to a commission by Cambridge City Council for the commemoration of the FA rules being agreed, which has set the bar for football, the world over. The work will take in nine stories from across the globe, including the unifying and uplifting power of football for Nelson Mandela and his contemporaries, held in Robin Island prison.

Newcastle artist Ilana Mitchell, known for her role as Artistic Director at live art festival “Wunderbar” in Newcastle, Ilana will work across Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester, Gent and Lille, to explore the relationship between football and public space, asking whose space is it? Her work will focus on recreational areas and make-shift concrete playing fields, that young people adopt as pop-up pitches for the beautiful game; exploring how often a sport made so accessible by its own rules and simplicity, is made so difficult by the rigidity of urban policy and the mantra of ‘Keep off the Grass’.

Projects that are work-in-progress include: Leeds Beckett Graphics lecturer Aiden Winterburn, working with his students to create a new football journal; Leeds collective ‘Invisible Flock’ commission by partner L’Entorse in Lille, to do a new work based on the sounds of the stadium creating a sound-art piece; and discussions are on-going with artist collective Leeds United to represent a sound piece.

As part of this year’s ‘Breeze Arts Festival’ that runs from 23rd–30th July 2016 (planned and programmed by young people with activities for 11-19 year olds, to celebrate the creativity of young people acros​s the city) East Street Arts will contribute a a print-making project to the programme – working with families in places such as Leeds Kirkgate Market and at the city’s summer festivals.

Although each project will create high profile, high quality new commissions and a strong research base to be taken forward into new projects; for Karen Watson (Artistic Director of East Street Arts) and her team it’s the relationships with, and learning from, European partners that proves to be the real benefit of the projects.

Karen commented “The project has highlighted areas where we can all learn from each other. East Street Arts brings strength in understanding how artists work and the nature of projects as they develop, where our partners in Lille and Gent are venues-based and have a much more rigid framework. We are used to managing artists and people, where European cities are much more accustomed to managing events, and shutting the city down for culture is second nature to them, where hosting and supporting the people involved in creating the piece is our big asset – there’s things we can each learn here.”

She continued “The big observation for us is in the management of a European funded project. The change in time zones, issues of currency and exchange rates can be the difference between success and failure. In Gent this is one of five EU-funded projects that Vooruit are managing. For Leeds to make the most of the opportunity presented by European Capital of Culture, there needs to be a greater understanding of, and capacity for, managing multiple international partnerships and projects of this nature.”

EX[S]PORTS will continue until January 2017

Useful Links:


Mutascope – Lucy Carolan & Richard Glynn
Domicile – Ben Mills
105+dB – Invisible Flock


Marching On Together – JIEM