Leeds CAN supporters call on council to halt planned changes at The Carriageworks Theatre

The Carriageworks Theatre in Millenium Square.
The Carriageworks Theatre in Millenium Square.

Community arts groups have accused Leeds City Council of effectively evicting them by raising room hire fees.

Leeds Community Arts Network (Leeds CAN), which represents 14 voluntary arts groups, said the price hike and other proposals would force them out of their long-established home.

The council should be hailing this theatre as a shining light for community accessibility.

Leeds CAN trustee Anita Adams

The organisations, including Leeds Youth Opera and Leeds Children’s Theatre, have been based at The Carriageworks Theatre in Millennium Square since it opened in 2005.

Leeds CAN trustee Anita Adams said: “The council should be hailing this theatre as a shining light for community accessibility and doing everything possible to champion the work.

“Instead we find ourselves out-priced, with restricted access and no support at all.”

Leeds CAN organisations currently pay £5 per hour for room hire, but the council plans to gradually increase this from April 1.

It wants rates to match the £25-£35 paid by other Leeds arts organisations and charities by 2021/22, saying the charge is only £5 for ‘historical reasons’.

Other proposals will end access to the scenic workshop facilities and storage area, halve the number of rooms available for rehearsals and meetings, and mean community facilities closing by 8.30pm each day.

Matthew Stirk, chairman of Leeds CAN’s board of trustees, said: “Obviously we understand that savings need to be made, but the commercial activity of the Carriageworks was always intended to support community arts, not

replace it.

“The early closure times will affect most of our groups, considering that many of our members have families and are often dictated by childcare and tea times. This could kill off the community spirit once and for all.”

More than 8,000 people have signed a petition opposing the plans to date.

The council said senior representatives had offered to meet Leeds CAN to discuss the proposals and their concerns.

A spokesman said: “We think it reasonable to increase Leeds Community Arts Network’s charge slowly to mean that access to the building becomes fair for everyone.

“We have been in discussions about these changes since 2016 and have emphasised that some additional flexibility would help keep the Carriageworks Theatre sustainable for years to come.

“Current budget pressures mean we do have to make difficult decisions and the proposed changes are about providing a fair and sustainable service which balances the varied needs of all the diverse groups which use the theatre.”

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