Leeds City Varieties: Fundraising campaign receives major boost

A major £1.26m fundraising campaign to help pay for refurbishing the world-famous Leeds City Varieties music hall has received a £150,000 boost.

The London-based Monument Trust – one of the Sainsbury family trusts – has donated the money to the project, which is costing a total of 9.2m.

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Leeds City Council and The Heritage Lottery Fund is providing the bulk of the money with the historic theatre working to raise the outstanding 1.26m.

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Earlier this year it launched Regeneration, a fundraising campaign supported by the Friends of the City Varieties.

Comedians Paul Merton and Barry Cryer were star guests at the launch.

Peter Sandeman, the music hall's general manager, said: "We are very grateful to the Monument Trust for its very generous gift.

"The Friends are working very hard and our fundraising is going well.

We now have over 550,000 which is encouraging. We will soon be launching our Name a Seat initiative which should also boost the fund."

Work on the refurbishment started last November and is due to be completed in the summer of 2011.

It includes complete restoration of the auditorium, new dressing rooms, more toilets, administration offices, relocation of the box office and improved access for disabled people, including a new lift. Mr Sandeman said: "The work is going very well. The backstage dressing rooms have been taken out and they will be rebuilt.

"One of the major changes has been the installation of the new lift structure on the outside of the building.

"The ceiling in the auditorium has been stabilised from above and below and a small amount of decorative work has been done, including a bit of gold leaf work."

The Varieties can trace its roots back well over 200 years to a "singing room" attached to the White Swan public house.

The current music hall, which is grade-two listed, was built in 1865. It was used for the filming of BBC Television's The Good Old Days, which started in the 1950s, ran for over 30 years and was watched by millions of people in the UK and abroad.

Long regarded as a valuable part of Leeds's heritage, over 5,000 people signed a petition organised as part of the Yorkshire Evening Post's The Shows Must Go On campaign, which helped win vital Heritage Lottery Funding for the refurbishment.

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