YEP Says, July 18: Can Leeds afford to keep arts venues afloat at any price?

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...and proof that Grand Depart was good for the city.

THE arts are vitally important to a place like Leeds. This is a city that wants to step things up a notch and compete with the big boys.

Theatres and live venues are a crucial piece in that jigsaw. Without the new Leeds Arena, for instance, would we have been chosen to host the Grand Depart?

But the financial problems revealed by the YEP to be dogging some of the city’s best-known arts venues raise some awkward questions.

The most obvious one is just how deep we should dig into the public purse in order to keep them afloat.

Earlier this month we reported that Leeds City Council had agreed to bail out the Grand Theatre to the tune of £653,000. This, it would be fair to say, didn’t go down too well with readers.

Now it emerges that the theatre is actually running at a profit – the problem lies with its sister operations Hyde Park Picture House and the City Varieties.

Confused? So are we.

What’s worse is that figures for the current financial year reveal the venues’ parent company continues to struggle, and further taxpayer help of up to £500,000 might well be needed next year – unless the management structures are radically overhauled.

That is what must now happen to try to set them back on the road to profit – or at least keeping their heads above water. We don’t want to lose them, but can the city really afford to keep them open at any price?

Proof that Grand Depart was good for the city

FIRST there were those who wondered if the Leeds public would embrace the Tour de France. Such doubts were swept aside when thousands lined the streets.

Then there were those who questioned if the exposure the city gained from hosting the event would really prove beneficial. On that front, the astounding figures released by Trinity Leeds are beyond dispute.

Almost 100,000 additional people visited the centre on the weekend of the Grand Depart. Meanwhile, weekly footfall in the city centre shot up by 20 per cent.

Given that what those visitors saw cannot fail to have impressed them, we look forward to seeing them – and hopefully all their friends – again very soon.

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