West Yorkshire Playhouse to get third theatre in £14m development

The West Yorkshire Playhouse. Picture: Chris Thornton

The West Yorkshire Playhouse. Picture: Chris Thornton

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LEEDS-based West Yorkshire Playhouse has won a £6.6 million grant for a major redevelopment project, including the opening of a third theatre inside the 25-year-old complex.

The building, originally constructed near the site of the old Quarry Hill flats, will also get £4.9 million from Leeds city council and will launch a fundraising drive to find a further £1.8m.

Today’s announcement from Arts Council England for “capital redevelopment funding” signals a green light for the £14m project, which will now move to the planning stage.

The Playhouse wants to create a new entrance facing Leeds city centre, improved access to all its theatre spaces, and an upgrade of its technical equipment as well as the addition of a third theatre.

The new performance space will be smaller than the existing Quarry and Courtyard Theatres, which seat 750 and 350 people respectively. It will be fashioned out of underground corridors left over from the old Quarry Hill, which were never developed as part of the original building.

Executive director Robin Hawkes said the Arts Council grant had come earlier than expected.

He said: “We hadn’t been expecting an announcement until the end of February, so receiving it now enables us to get things moving earlier than anticipated. We will accelerate our work with our partners at Leeds City Council to appoint an architect and to start getting plans in place.”

Artistic director James Brining said the theatre building - which in 1990 replaced the earlier Leeds Playhouse - had been beginning to show its age.

He said: “We have an ambitious artistic vision for what the Playhouse can be for our audiences, artists and communities over the coming years. To have the opportunity to pursue this vision knowing that our building can match and indeed help realise those ambitions is a hugely exciting prospect.

“The Playhouse is undoubtedly beginning to show its age. We want to be able to welcome people from our region, our country and from across the world to a home of which we are proud.”

Leeds council leader Councillor Judith Blake, said: “We’re absolutely delighted that the Arts Council is supporting our joint application for a project that will completely transform one of Leeds’s most cherished cultural institutions.”

The Playhouse said a design team would be appointed within six months, followed by the development of full plans for the building.

Construction work is expected to begin in the second half of 2017, with completion in late 2018. The building will close for part of that period.

The fundraising drive will echo the development of the original Leeds Playhouse in the 1960s, when money from the city council and Arts Council was augmented by £20,000 of public subscriptions after a campaign headed by actor Peter O’Toole and Leeds author and playwright Keith Waterhouse.