Sneak preview of £14m Leeds theatre redevelopment

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Here’s a sneak preview of plans to transform Leeds’s flagship theatre in a multi-million pound redevelopment.

Proposals to revamp West Yorkshire Playhouse will go before the city’s senior planning officials next week.

James Brining, artistic director of the West Yorkshire Playhouse. PIC: Tony Johnson

James Brining, artistic director of the West Yorkshire Playhouse. PIC: Tony Johnson

The plans, submitted by Leeds City Council with support from the Playhouse, include a brand new city-facing entrance and the addition of a new studio theatre space in the so-called ‘Rock Void’. Next week’s meeting will see members receive a pre-application report, providing further details on how the final designs and plans will look, ahead of a full planning application being considered later this year.

Last year the council appointed award-winning Page\Park Architects to lead on the designs for the theatre revamp.

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The architects have previously worked on the Centre for Contemporary Arts and the Theatre Royal in Glasgow and Eden Court Theatre in Inverness.

Chris Thornton Photography

Chris Thornton Photography

West Yorkshire Playhouse’s executive director Robin Hawkes said: “These plans mark the next step in the Playhouse’s evolution towards becoming the 21st Century theatre that Leeds deserves.

“We have a vision for an inspiring and fully accessible building which stands proudly in the city’s prestigious Quarry Hill cultural quarter and complements and enhances the experience of seeing work here.

“Leeds has never been richer and more diverse in the scale and nature of its theatre and dance scene and the Playhouse is committed to supporting and showcasing the best the City has to offer towards 2023 and beyond.”

The council successfully bid to the Arts Council England (ACE) for stage one funding, which was followed by an invitation to now make a further application for a grant of £6.3m towards the cost of the project. If the stage two application is successful, construction work will begin on site in 2018.

The council will commit £3.5m towards the cost of the refurbishment.

The £14m Playhouse masterplan will sit alongside £150m proposals to redevelop the Quarry Hill area.

Mr Hawkes previously said the theatre was “enthusiastic” about the wider project, which would “help bring revitalisation to the Quarry Hill area, and complement Victoria Gate in establishing the eastward extension of Leeds city-centre”. “We look forward to working with them as our new neighbours,” he added.

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James Brining, artistic director at West Yorkshire Playhouse, believes the redevelopment is “intricately linked” to the city’s upcoming bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2023.

“We need this development for the theatre to remain relevant,” he previously told the YEP.

And he believes accessibility is key, especially in the context of the city centre’s growing retail and leisure offer.

“You’ll be able to walk straight across from the bus station into the theatre,” he said.

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