Stage set for new shows and screenings at Leeds Heritage Theatres

Two of Leeds's most unique and historical cultural venues are set to raise the curtain on a new programme of shows and screenings.

Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 6:00 am
Both Leeds Grand Theatre and City Varieties Music Hall hope to raise their curtains and welcome audiences back from May 2021. Hyde Park Picture House remains closed as work begins on the much-anticipated Picture House Project.

On the one-year anniversary since the Leeds Heritage Theatres trio of venues were forced to close owing to the pandemic the firm has announced an exciting programme of new shows and screenings.

Both Leeds Grand Theatre and City Varieties Music Hall hope to raise their curtains and welcome audiences back from May 2021 - as highlighted in the government’s roadmap as being safe to open with Covid-safety measures in place.

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It is hoped that by Monday, June 21, the theatres will be able to operate as ‘close to normal as possible’.

Hyde Park Picture House remains closed as work begins on the much-anticipated Picture House Project - a major development that will see the cinema undergo essential conservation work, alongside the creation of new, accessible facilities, sister venues,

Chris Blythe, CEO of Leeds Heritage Theatres, said: “Whilst programming continues to be a challenge and our reopening plans remain in the hands of the government and the four key ‘tests’ that must be met before easing the societal pressures of lockdown, we are positively working towards mid-May, when we will do everything in our power to raise the curtains, raise the roofs and raise the mood of the people of Leeds and wider region.

“It is no exaggeration to say that our industry has suffered exponentially because of Covid-19 - as arts and culture venues across the country have tried and failed to recover from the impact - but It has never been more important for this sector to thrive, as people reach out to theatres, cinemas, music venues etc as spaces to escape their day-to-day pressures. Our audiences want to be entertained.”

Resident company, Northern Ballet, will launch The Grand’s new season with David Nixon’s reimagining of the classic Swan Lake - they will follow this in November with Merlin, originally set to run over Christmas 2020 as part of their 50th year anniversary celebrations.

Fellow residents, Opera North, will also return in the autumn with a season of work yet to be announced. And whilst some of the blockbuster musicals from this year, including The Book of Mormon and Les Misérables, have had to be moved to 2022, West End hits SIX and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie will run alongside newly-announced Priscilla Queen of the Desert and My Best Friend’s Wedding (starring Alexandre Burke) to name a few.

At the Varieties, a stellar line-up of live comedy, music and variety will run alongside an exciting new film programme presented in collaboration with the Picture House as part of its On The Road line-up.

Closure on March 16, 2020, saw the company furlough most of its staff and lose 98 per cent of its earned income. It is largely thanks to prudent fiscal planning to build reserves, plus financial support from the government and Arts Council England’s Culture Recovery Fund and job retention scheme, and additional grants from the National Heritage Lottery Fund, that the company has managed to weather the storm.

A skeleton team of staff have continued to work from home with the firm managing to relaunch its brand, continue work on the Picture House Project and launch the online campaign #HydeParkPics, build a virtual creative, familiar structure for the company’s young people and run free online masterclasses for aspiring actors.

Chris added: “It is testament to the stoic determination, resilience and creativity of our people, plus the overwhelmingly generous financial and emotional support of our audiences, that we are still here and planning our own roadmap out of lockdown.

“Whilst I am certain that the coming months will continue to challenge and test us, our region, and the country, I am confident our curtains will rise again.”

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