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City Varieties

The City Varieties, one of the few remaining music halls in the country, hosts a range of traditional and contemporary entertainment all year long, including rock’n’roll musicals, light opera, comedy, folk music, hypnotists, dance and clairvoyance shows. In fact, City Varieties is home to very much the same type of entertainment that people were enjoying there in the heyday of music hall – ‘The Good Old Days’.

The music hall closed in January 2009 for a well-deserved refurbishment which saw a complete demolition and reconstruction of the backstage areas as well as ceiling repairs and the fitting of new seating and carpeting. The re-opening in September 2011 suggested that it was only the interior that required the renovation as the music hall’s nostalgic Victorian era looks remain satisfyingly unchanged.

The Carriageworks Theatre

The Carriageworks is a thriving theatre at the heart of Leeds’ Millennium Square. It showcases the best in new national and international performance work, with a dynamic programme of theatre, dance, comedy and film. At the same time, it offers support for emerging and professional theatre makers at various different stages of their careers.

The venue gives opportunities for members of the local community to take part in a variety of high quality participatory arts activities, including becoming involved in amateur productions through the Leeds Civic Arts Guild and extensive work with young people. The Carriageworks also offers high quality facilities for events, festivals and conferences to organisations looking for an inspiring and centrally located setting for their event.

There are two performance spaces. The Main Auditorium is a proscenium arch theatre with a capacity of 350, and caters for larger-scale productions. Upstairs@thecarriageworks is an intimate and flexible studio space with a maximum capacity of 65, and hosts an innovative selection of fresh and exciting new work.

The Carriageworks is located on the first floor level of the Electric Press Development on Millennium Square, Leeds. Stansfield Chambers (Grade II listed) which was built in 1948 and housed the West Riding Carriage Manufactory from which theatre takes its name; and Portland Chambers which was built towards the end of the last century. The Electric Press Development also incorporates the Electric Press building (Grade II listed) which was built in 1894 and was used by Chorley and Pickersgill as a printing works.

Grand Theatre

Extensive refurbishment between 2005 and 2008 has restored the Grand Theatre to its former glory, 130 years after it first opened in 1878. Over two phases, the Grand Theatre was thoroughly extended and renovated - improving the interior, creating two huge rehearsal rooms, installing new seating and air conditioning and connecting to the building next door which Opera North had bought out previously. The Assembly Rooms, which had been closed since 1985, finally re-opened over twenty years later, excitingly acting as both a rehearsal and performance space for Opera North who now have Autumn, Winter and Spring sessions at the Grand.

The most notable benefit of the Grand Theatre’s structural refurbishment is that the venue is now wholly capable of hosting large scale shows and West End musicals. With the installation of a state of the art “flying machine”, which allows the hanging and staging of big set pieces, productions such as The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked and Shrek have now graced the venue. The Grand also hosts performances from Northern Ballet with the most recent show being Swan Lake which was shown in mid-March 2016.

The West Yorkshire Playhouse

The West Yorkshire Playhouse (WYP) continued to stage both traditional and new drama in the Courtyard and the Quarry theatre. It is now 50% self-funded, the rest of its income coming from Yorkshire Arts, Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Grants.

The Playhouse is not just a theatre; it also runs the Arts Development Unit which provides arts education and activities for both adults and children. Their Community Network supports inner-city community groups, and the Playhouse’s Schools Theatre works in partnership with local schools.

The present day WYP is set to change, however, with approval given for a big renovation which should be complete by 2018. This will see the building extended, the fixtures becoming more energy-efficient and most prominently, the entrance to the building will move to the opposite side of the building to face out directly towards the bus station in the hope that the Playhouse will thrive from facing out into the big city.

Final additions to Leeds new ‘Theatre Quarter’ include the Northern Ballet building, home to not just Northern Ballet but also the Phoenix Dance Theatre and Leeds Beckett’s performing arts students; and Leeds College of Music.
Click images to enlarge
City Varieties, 1999
City Varieties, 1999
The Carriageworks
The Carriageworks
The Grand Theatre
The Grand Theatre
West Yorkshire Playhouse
West Yorkshire Playhouse

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© 2003 Leeds City Council | Site created by: LCC electronic information team | 25 March 2003