Multi-million pound development for Opera North gets the green light

PUBLISHED: 00:00 26 September 2018

An artist's impression of the new look for Opera North

An artist's impression of the new look for Opera North

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Plans will create improved facilities for artists and for audiences, as well as a new Education Centre to house Opera North’s extensive programme of arts activities for children, young people and families.

Opera North, England’s national opera company based in Leeds, has been given the go-ahead for an ambitious redevelopment project which will create a world-class centre for music in the heart of the city. The plans will create improved facilities for artists and for audiences, as well as a new Education Centre to house Opera North’s extensive programme of arts activities for children, young people and families.

A new restaurant and bar will regenerate an important commercial section of New Briggate, replacing a row of four vacant shop units directly beneath the Howard Assembly Room and adjacent to Leeds Grand Theatre, providing audiences with convenient, high quality dining as well as making significant enhancements to the historic frontage of the building, the approach to the venues, and the wider civic space of New Briggate.

The Howard Assembly Room, managed by Opera North but currently accessed via Leeds Grand Theatre, will have its own dedicated entrance and box office next to the restaurant, with a new atrium space providing direct stairs and lift access and improved front of house facilities.

The changes will attract more of the best global musicians and artists as Opera North will be able to increase the number of gigs, concerts and events held at the Howard Assembly Room. Since its opening, following its restoration in 2009, the 300-seat venue has been celebrated for its diverse, cross-genre programme and innovative new commissions.

Further development of Opera North’s estate will create a world-class artistic hub for the company’s creative work, connecting two current theatrical rehearsal studios, offices and costume workshop with new music practice rooms and a ‘state of the art’ music rehearsal studio for the musicians in Opera North’s orchestra and chorus.

The new Education Centre will include studio spaces and teaching facilities for youth ensembles, early years and family groups, schools’ workshops, and singing groups and courses for adults. Education is an extensive part of Opera North’s work, with an annual turnover of over £1million invested in the region’s young people, helping to shape futures and inspire lifelong engagement with music.

Opera North’s award-winning opera productions are created and premiered in Leeds, and the company performs at Leeds Grand Theatre each season before touring its productions to theatres across the country.

Richard Mantle, general director, Opera North said: ‘Following this successful outcome for our planning application, we will now move forward with the redevelopment work to create a truly world-class arts hub to meet the needs of our audiences, our artistic company, and our home city of Leeds. We believe the development will result in real enhancements to both the day and night-time economy and culture of New Briggate and the Grand Quarter and will act as a catalyst for further improvements in the surrounding public space.

‘I am delighted to say that we have already secured a significant level of funding from private and public sources, and this autumn will see the launch of a large-scale fundraising campaign, to raise the remaining funds needed to fully realise this £18 million project and deliver a vibrant cultural programme, placing music in the heart of Leeds.’

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