Leeds Grand Theatre & Opera House Ltd., the company responsible for managing three of Leeds’ iconic arts venues - Leeds Grand Theatre, City Varieties Music Hall and Hyde Park Picture House - will begin trading as Leeds Heritage Theatres from Wednesday 26 August 2020.
The announcement comes months after the historic buildings were forced to close due to COVID-19.
“The planned name change, and brand launch were originally scheduled for April 2020,” says Chris Blythe, CEO, “when we were hoping, and had plans, to announce the exciting news in a manner more fitting of our industry. Unfortunately, due to the current pandemic, we had to postpone the announcement whilst we attended to more urgent matters, namely closing our three buildings and furloughing 96% of our staff, while maintaining some business continuity. Now, after considerable work behind the scenes, we are ready to put the new name, brand and website into the public domain.”
An independent company, and registered charity, controlled by Leeds City Council, Leeds Grand Theatre & Opera House Ltd. took over the lease of Leeds Grand Theatre in 1969 (buying it outright in 1973) - following a long period of unrest, including plans to demolish the building in 1968. This was followed by the acquisition of The Varieties in 1987 and finally Hyde Park Picture House in 1989.
“Whilst we have been trading for more than 30 years as Leeds Grand Theatre & Opera House Ltd, we have long known that the name was not befitting of our company, and the role our venues and people play within the Leeds arts scene,” says Blythe. “We knew we must choose a name that encapsulates our people, our venues, our heritage and our future, and will raise awareness, both regionally and nationally, of the breadth and quality of our shows/screenings and educational function.”
Collectively, the three theatres have been open for more than 400 years, contributing immeasurably to Leeds’ (and the wider regions) cultural landscape, be that artistically, educationally or financially.
Leeds Heritage Theatres: attracts over 350,000 people every year to see a wide range of shows, performers and films engages with over 10,000 young people every year through Leeds Heritage Theatres’ education programme, including Youth Theatre, curriculum-linked schools’ workshops and training provision of placements and apprenticeships. The Learning team also lead Grand Futures Leeds (supported by the Emerald Foundation); a network of 15 arts, heritage and educational organisations in Leeds, currently working together to raise awareness of opportunities available to young people in the arts, including volunteering and paid training opportunities
provides a performance home at The Grand for Arts Council funded Opera North and Northern Ballet, who would otherwise have no where large enough to perform their home seasons employs more than 200 staff supports local businesses and suppliers, including city centre bars and restaurants.
Blythe continues: “Now, more than ever, as our venues stand empty, it is important that we make people aware what Leeds and Yorkshire stand to lose if our venues close due to COVID-19.” Leeds Heritage Theatres generates 98% of its income though ticket and subsidiary sales - it does not receive funding from the Arts Council - as a result the company has been massively hit financially by the current crisis.
He adds: “We're doing all that we can to survive this period, as well as prepare for the economic uncertainty that we know will follow. We are drawing heavily on our reserves, which we had planned to invest back into our buildings, and we're making plans for what measures we will need to put in place to help audiences feel confident to return.”
“As we put forward our bid to receive funding from the Government’s arts rescue package, we know that competition is fierce, and we need the support of our loyal customers more than ever. We’re asking that people, if financially viable, buy tickets, memberships and vouchers, or donate what money they can. In such dark times, theatre is a positive force – it provides an opportunity for people from all backgrounds to come together to share a common bond – a love of performance. Just when our future was looking so bright, we cannot let our theatres fade into the darkness.”
Donations can be made at https://donate.leedsgrandtheatre.com/.