Transformed Leeds Playhouse triumphs at The Stage Awards

The stunning transformation of Leeds Playhouse has been recognised by leading figures in the world of theatre.

By Joe Cooper
Tuesday, 4th February 2020, 5:00 pm

The building, formerly known as West Yorkshire Playhouse, was named Theatre Building of the Year 2020 at The Stage Awards in the wake of a major £16m development.

It is the first time the Theatre Building of the Year title has been awarded to an organisation based outside of London.

The Stage is a prestigious industry publication which dates back to 1880.

Leeds Playhouse.

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    The awards, which recognise ‘outstanding achievement in UK theatre’, were judged by Alistair Smith, editor of The Stage, associate editor Lyn Gardner, reviews editor Natasha Tripney and Daily Mail entertainment columnist Baz Bamigboye, among others.

    They said in a joint statement: “Leeds Playhouse has undergone a complete transformation. Thanks to the remarkable development overseen by Page\Park Architects, it boasts a new strikingly designed exterior to greet visitors and significant improvements to its public spaces.

    “Care has been taken to make the space as accessible and welcoming as possible, from the toilet provision – the theatre boasts a Changing Places toilet for people whose needs are not met by standard accessible toilets, as well as gender-neutral facilities – to well-located wheelchair spaces that can be accessed via the main entrances to the auditoria.

    "But the greatest change is one of visibility: from the Chumbawumba-inspired neon artwork on the exterior wall to the stylish, inviting entrance, the theatre now looks out towards the city.”

    Executive director of Leeds PlayHouse Robin Hawkes, pictured at the Bramall Rock Void.

    The Playhouse, which reopened in October last year, underwent its biggest transformation since moving to its existing Quarry Hill site in 1990.

    The new facade is characterised by coloured panels which are a reference to the pottery businesses that once thrived in nearby Burmantofts, and a lighting installation gives a nod to Leeds band Chumbawumba.

    A third studio space - the Bramall Rock Void - was also added during the redevelopment.

    Leeds Playhouse Executive Director Robin Hawkes, who accepted the award at the Royal Opera House, London, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled that our wonderful new building and the hard work that has gone into its creation have been recognised nationally.

    "I would like to pay tribute to our architects Page\Park, who shared our transformative vision and finally gave us a building that matches our ambition, to our valued project partners for their unwavering support, and to my wonderful Playhouse colleagues for their commitment and dedication through the months of dust and disruption.

    “It has been a real joy to welcome people back into the building, to see it being so well-used by so many, and to see it alive and thriving.

    "This award recognises the hard work that has gone into the complete transformation of Leeds Playhouse and propels us forward into our next exciting chapter.”

    Leeds Playhouse pays tribute to Sir Rodney Brooke CBE ahead of his departure as Chairman of the Board

    Leeds Playhouse's Chairman of the Board is stepping down after nine years in the role, it was announced on Monday.

    Sir Rodney Brooke CBE has overseen a successful period at the organisation, including its renaming as Leeds Playhouse, its three most successful productions at the box office, and the growth and development of its award-winning Creative Engagement and Furnace artistic development programmes.

    Sir Rodney also played a significant role in the recently completed £16m redevelopment of the theatre.

    A former office boy at Morley Borough Council, he went on to become Chief Executive of West Yorkshire County Council in 1974.

    He played a key role the development of the original building on Quarry Hill in 1990 as a member of West Yorkshire County Council.

    Sir Rodney, who lives in Ilkley, took over as chairman from Brian Boutell in 2010.

    The Playhouse has named a new hospitality room in the redeveloped building in his honour.

    The Brooke Room recognises the significant contribution Sir Rodney and his wife Dr Lady Clare Brooke have made over the years.

    Sir Rodney Brooke CBE said: “It has been a true honour to be a part of Leeds Playhouse. The theatre has community spirit at its heart and brilliantly creates work that represents modern society, giving voice to those who need to be heard.

    “I’m immensely proud of the pioneering work the Playhouse has produced both on and off our stages, increasing representation in the stories we share with audiences, the artists we work with, and the meaningful way we work with the city of Leeds and the wider communities we serve.

    "The dedication of the staff shines through and it is through that dedication that greatness is achieved.

    "Most of all, this theatre has become my home and a place that I hold dear in my heart. I can’t wait to see what the next chapter for the Playhouse holds, as I enjoy the theatre as a member of the audience.”

    Leeds Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said: “From the moment I arrived at the Playhouse, I have enjoyed the full support, encouragement and insight of Rodney who, through his own passion for arts, culture and the region, fully appreciates the way this theatre can change lives.

    "His hands-on approach has led us to push the boundaries and strive for excellence.

    "During his tenure, the Playhouse has grown in terms of its strength and resilience; becoming a world leader in terms of accessibility; developing the first ever programme of Relaxed and Dementia Friendly performances; becoming the first ever Theatre of Sanctuary for refugees and asylum seekers; and continuing to break down barriers.

    "His dedication knows no bounds and his energy and enthusiasm for the organisation, the staff and the work on and off our stages has continually inspired me.”