Theatre closures would be 'tragedy' for Leeds as MPs bid for support cash

Leeds’ five Labour MPs have issued a plea to Government to save the city’s theatres as coronavirus put a question mark over their future.

Friday, 21st August 2020, 5:45 am

Fabian Hamilton, Rachel Reeves, Richard Burgon, Alex Sobel, and Hilary Benn have written a joint letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden asking for more support for the Leeds City Varieties Music Hall, the Leeds Grand Theatre, and the Hyde Park Picture House.

They said: “Each of them contributes immeasurably to the culture of Leeds as a city and the threat of their closure has brought understandable anxiety to many across Leeds and the whole of Yorkshire.”

The MPs warned that although the theatres had reserves to help them weather the Covid crisis, these were now running low, and with 98 per cent of income generated through ticket and bar sales, the outlook was now gloomy.

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Stock photo of Leeds Grand theatre.

They said the music hall was one of just three surviving in the country, and Hyde Park Picture House “one of the country’s most distinctive and historic cinemas”.

Leeds Grand Theatre also hosts many West End touring productions and Arts Council funded organisations.

The MPs called for financial support to get the venues through until Christmas, as although they could now open in a socially-distanced manner this would not result in pre-coronavirus income levels.

They also said the theatres should be allowed to access ACE emergency funding, and provide money to help restore the buildings which are undergoing £8m emergency works to preserve them.

“We believe that the Government needs to ensure that Leeds arts are not left behind as a result of the crisis and that the city receives its fair share of financial help,” the letter said.

“The loss of such great institutions would be a tragedy and we can’t stress enough how much their closure would harm Leeds as a city - both culturally and economically.”

A spokesman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: "We know this is a difficult time for the theatre industry which is why we have made the biggest ever one-off cash-injection in UK culture. Our unprecedented £1.57bn investment builds on £200m in emergency public funding to stabilise organisations, help secure the future of the performing arts, protect jobs in the industry and ensure work continues to flow to freelancers.

"Applications for more than £500m in grants are now live and we are committed to delivering this funding quickly and fairly to organisations, big and small, at the heart of communities across the country."