West Yorkshire Playhouse set for multi-million pound redevelopment

Executive director Robin Hawkes and artistic director James Brining in the auditorium of the Quarry

Executive director Robin Hawkes and artistic director James Brining in the auditorium of the Quarry Theatre at West Yorkshire Playhouse Photo Anthony Robling - Credit: Archant

Green light for major improvements at award-winning theatre

The go-ahead has been given to one of Yorkshire’s leading theatres for a multi-million pound redevelopment earlier than expected.

The Arts Council England decision to support the project, with £300,000 towards a £6.6m grant, means detailed plans to renovate West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, including upgrading the theatre and creating an entrance facing the city centre, can be finalised.

The decision is partly based on the commitment of Leeds City Council to contribute up to £4.9m towards the overall project costs of more than £14m. A fundraising campaign will now also be launched. ‘This is the best possible news with which to start the New Year,’ said executive director Robin Hawkes. ‘We hadn’t been expecting an announcement from the Arts Council until the end of February, so receiving it now enables us to get things moving earlier than anticipated. We will accelerate our work with our partners at Leeds City Council to appoint an architect and to start getting plans in place.’

Artistic director James Brining said they have an ambitious artistic vision for the playhouse over the coming years. ‘We want to be able to welcome people from our region, our country and from across the world to a home of which we are proud. This project marks a step change for theatre in Leeds and feels especially appropriate as we move towards the 50th anniversary of the playhouse’s inception in 1968.’

Leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Judith Blake, added that the project would completely transform one of Leeds’s most cherished cultural institutions. ‘West Yorkshire Playhouse is an integral part of our city’s cultural landscape which appeals to a huge range of people and this ambitious redevelopment scheme will be a massive statement of intent about how central the arts are to life in Leeds.

‘The theatre already provides a host activities both on-stage, in the building and in our communities and these proposals will also help to bolster that excellent work still further as the city builds towards submitting an application to be European Capital of culture in 2023. With this excellent news, we can now look forward to working together and seeing the project take some exciting steps towards making the playhouse a venue befitting of its status as one of Leeds’s foremost cultural flagships.’

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A design team will be appointed in the next six months, followed by the development of full plans for the building. Building is expected to begin in the second half of 2017, with completion in late 2018. The construction work is also likely to mean a period of closure and planning will now also begin to continue the playhouse’s programme off-site during that time.