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Leeds Town Hall: £3m bid to ‘buff up the diamond’

Leeds Town Hall. PIC: PA

Leeds Town Hall. PIC: PA

  • by Aisha Iqbal
 

The eyes of the world were on its glorious 156-year old architecture when it recently hosted the Tour de France Grand Départ.

But city bosses admit that much of Leeds Town Hall - voted Leeds’s favourite building by YEP readers in 2011 - is falling apart at the seams.

Now, the much loved building could be in line for a major £3m makeover, if a new bid for Lottery funding is successful.

Senior councillors have just given the go-ahead for a new feasibility study to look into the investment needed to bring the Grade One listed building up to scratch. This would form the basis for a funding application to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Key improvements needed are repairs to the roof and the installation of better disability access.

The building, completed in 1858, was once a municipal hub, hosting rooms for the Lord Mayor, courts, cells, the city’s police station, register services and more. However nowadays it serves primarily as a concert and conference venue, hosting over 200 events a year.

Speaking at a meeting of the council’s cabinet, chief spokeswoman for culture Lucinda Yeadon said the Town Hall was a “particular jewel in our cultural crown” but admitted it was in dire need of investment.

“The roof is in much need of repair and we do recognise that the disability access is certainly not what we would want in this modern city,” she said.

“The Victoria Hall is so beautiful and is seen as an incredible place to perform.

“Unfortunately the back rooms and bar are not to the same standard.”

The Lottery bid has won cross party backing, with Lib Dem opposition group leader Stewart Golton saying this was a chance to “buff up the diamond”.

Coun Keith Wakefield, leader of the council, said the building was a “wonderful” asset to the city which had made “an impressive statement to the world about the grandeur of Leeds” during the Tour De France.

“No-one wants to see it deteriorate any more,” he said.

HISTORY OF A CULTURAL TREASURE

The decision to build Leeds Town Hall was made in 1851, at a meeting of the then Leeds Borough Council.

A subsequent competition led to the building being completed in 1858, to the design of Cuthbert Brodrick.

For the next 108 years, it stood as the tallest building in Leeds.

Its massive musical legacy began with the Leeds Triennial Music Festival in 1858, which ran until the 1980s. It is also a major venue for the world famous Leeds International Pianoforte Competition.

Big names who have performed there include Deep Purple in 1972, Leeds’s own Kaiser Chiefs in 2005 and Nigel Kennedy in 2013.

In 2011, it was voted Leeds’ favourite building by YEP readers at the Leeds Architecture Awards.

 

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