Arts Council England have today confirmed a total grant of £6.6m towards the landmark redevelopment of West Yorkshire Playhouse, with further news that the project has been granted planning consent, thereby giving the green light for a transformational moment in the theatre’s history.
The £14m project, led by Leeds City Council, will be funded by £4.4m from the council and £3m from the Playhouse’s own resources (including ongoing fundraising), alongside the Arts Council England contribution.
The plans, submitted by the council, will deliver a full modernisation of the building, including the addition of the new Bramall Rock Void studio theatre space, significantly improved access across the theatre, and a brand new city-facing entrance.
West Yorkshire Playhouse executive director Robin Hawkes said: “This is a fantastic combination of news to receive just before Christmas. It is the culmination of nearly five years of hard work by so many people both at the Playhouse and at the Council, and means we can go into the New Year planning positively for a new era for our theatre. We are very grateful to Arts Council England for putting their trust in us to deliver this brilliant project, and look forward to giving Leeds the 21st Century theatre it deserves.”
West Yorkshire Playhouse artistic director James Brining said: “The Playhouse is used and loved by hundreds of thousands of people every year. The opportunity to make the theatre even more accessible, welcoming and fit for purpose for the 21st Century is one we relish. We take the responsibility of refashioning the Playhouse extremely seriously and look forward to many more years of fantastic theatre here in Leeds when we open the doors of the new Playhouse in 2019.”
Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Judith Blake said: “We are absolutely thrilled that this exciting project to transform one of our city’s most prominent and respected arts institutions has secured funding so pivotal to its continued progress.
“Working alongside our partners at West Yorkshire Playhouse for the past few years, our shared vision has been to reshape the venue into a modern, state-of-the-art theatre which is the focal point of a new cultural hub for the whole city to enjoy.
“This announcement will allow us to take a giant leap towards making that vision a reality, improving and securing the Playhouse and further enhancing our city’s world class cultural offering for future generations.”
Sarah Maxfield, area director north, Arts Council England said: “I’m pleased that we have been able to support the exciting refurbishment plans for West Yorkshire Playhouse through our National Lottery funded capital programme. The plans to modernise the building mean that artists, participants and audiences will have an even better experience as one of the North’s leading theatres, and I look forward to seeing how the work progresses.”
The Playhouse will continue to stage work during the redevelopment process, temporarily transforming a workshop space on the theatre’s site into a substantial 350 seat Pop Up theatre.
A programme of work will run in the Pop Up theatre throughout Autumn 2018 and Spring 2019, with Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol announced as the Christmas 2018 production.
West Yorkshire Playhouse has a reputation both nationally and internationally as a leading UK producing theatre. The theatre is a cultural hub, a place where people gather to tell and share stories and to engage in world class theatre. From large scale spectacle to intimate performance the Playhouse develops and makes work for the stage, found spaces, touring, schools and community venues. Alongside work for the stage the Playhouse is dedicated to providing creative engagement opportunities, building and running sustainable projects that reach out to a diverse range of communities. Supporting new and emerging artists is key and the theatre provides creative space for new writers, directors and individual theatre makers to refine their practice.
Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2015 and 2018, we plan to invest £1.1 billion of public money from government and an estimated £700 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. www.artscouncil.org.uk