The iconic and historic Leeds Grand Theatre, City Varieties Music Hall and Hyde Park Picture House are from today known as Leeds Heritage Theatres
We would have heard about this in April, but the constraints brought about by COVID-19 paused all plans.
CEO Chris Blythe explained: “The planned name change and brand launch were originally scheduled for April 2020, when we were hoping, and had plans, to announce the exciting news in a manner more fitting of our industry. Unfortunately, due to the current pandemic, we had to postpone the announcement whilst we attended to more urgent matters, namely closing our three buildings and furloughing 96% of our staff, while maintaining some business continuity. Now, after considerable work behind the scenes, we are ready to put the new name, brand and website into the public domain.
Whilst we have been trading for more than 30 years as Leeds Grand Theatre & Opera House Ltd., we have long known that the name was not befitting of our company, and the role our venues and people play within the Leeds arts scene. We knew we must choose a name that encapsulates our people, our venues, our heritage and our future, and will raise awareness, both regionally and nationally, of the breadth and quality of our shows/screenings and educational function.”
The three theatres have between them been contributing to Leeds’ cultural scene for over 400 years, attracting ore than 350,000 people annually. The education programme engages with over 10,000 young people in a variety of significant ways. The Grand is home to Opera North and Northern Ballet performances.
Leeds Heritage Theatres employs more than 200 staff, all supporting local businesses and suppliers, including restaurants and City Centre bars.
Chris added “Now, more than ever, as our venues stand empty, it is important that we make people aware what Leeds and Yorkshire stand to lose if our venues close due to COVID-19.”
Leeds Heritage Theatres generates 98% of its income though ticket and subsidiary sales. There is no funding from the Arts Council. The company has been massively hit financially by the current crisis.
“As we put forward our bid to receive funding from the Government’s arts rescue package, we know that competition is fierce, and we need the support of our loyal customers more than ever. We’re asking that people, if financially viable, buy tickets, memberships and vouchers, or donate what money they can. In such dark times, theatre is a positive force – it provides an opportunity for people from all backgrounds to come together to share a common bond – a love of performance. Just when our future was looking so bright, we cannot let our theatres fade into the darkness.
We’re doing all that we can to survive this period, as well as prepare for the economic uncertainty that we know will follow. We are drawing heavily on our reserves, which we had planned to invest back into our buildings, and we’re making plans for what measures we will need to put in place to help audiences feel confident to return.” Chris explained.
Donations can be made at https://donate.leedsgrandtheatre.com/.Leeds Heritage Theatres worked with brand design consultants, Elmwood, and website designers, Substrakt on this project. Alex Halfpenny, Design Director at Elmwood said: “Working together with the team at Leeds Heritage Theatres was an absolute pleasure. The genuine passion for the cause, and understanding of the audience, stakeholders and fellow team members made the creative process organic, enjoyable and sincerely rooted in the truth of what the organisation believes in. The respect given to making democratic decisions involving all those who play a part, gave a truly wholesome family feel. This job made me proud to live and work in the region.”
Leeds Grand Theatre Auditorium. Feature photograph by Simon Hulme.