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Green Light For Opera North Redevelopment Works On Leeds’ New Briggate
Richard Mantle and Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council. Photo by Justin Slee
Opera North has been granted planning permission for an ambitious redevelopment project which will create a world-class centre for music in the heart of the city.

The proposal, which has previously received the support of Leeds City Council’s Executive Board, was approved by the City Plans Panel on 23 August, and has been granted Full Planning Permission and Listed Building Consent.

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, a ‘hidden gem’ which is programmed and 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.

More of the best global musicians and artists will be coming to Leeds each year, as the changes will enable Opera North 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, including film screenings, children’s operas, jazz, world music and folk, classical concerts, talks, installations, and innovative new commissions. The Howard Assembly Room celebrates its 10th anniversary in January 2019.

One of England’s largest arts companies, Opera North is a key driver of artistic innovation and skills in the region, permanently employing over 250 people including highly skilled costume-makers, stage managers, electricians, stage technicians, props makers, sound and lighting technicians, educators, designers, and, of course, musicians, in addition to freelance performers, creatives and artists. 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.

Further development of Opera North’s estate on Harrison Street, between New Briggate and Vicar Lane will create a truly world-class artistic hub for the Company’s creative work, connecting two current theatrical rehearsal studios, offices in Premier House, 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 house much of Opera North’s award-winning Education work in Leeds, including 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.

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.”

Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council said:

“We’re very pleased to see these ambitious plans taking shape and to be offering our support to the development and enhancement of one of the city’s key cultural assets.

“Opera North has been a cultural gem in Leeds for many years and by backing these plans, the executive board is recognising the organisation's huge contribution to the city - both in the tremendous work we see on stage but equally the life-changing musical experiences Opera North provides for children in some of our most deprived neighbourhoods."

Green Light For Opera North Redevelopment Works On Leeds’ New Briggate, 3rd September 2018, 15:04 PM