For over 400 years, Leeds Grand Theatre, City Varieties Music Hall and our sister venue, Hyde Park Picture House, have been entertaining, educating and generally lifting the spirits of the people of Leeds and the wider region. Until now. None of our venues have ever closed - indeed the City Varieties holds the Guinness World Record for being the longest, continuously open, music hall in the country - but suddenly our future is uncertain.
When our venues closed their doors on 17 March 2020, we instantly lost 99% of our income; Leeds Grand Theatre & Opera House Ltd receives 1% of its income from public subsidy in the form of a grant from Leeds City Council and sponsorship of our Learning programme from The Emerald Foundation. The rest of our income is earned through ticket sales, bar sales and merchandise sales - all of which rely on us being open to customers.
As a registered charity, we work with young people across the region, delivering work in schools, running a hugely successful youth theatre and chairing a city-wide partnership, Grand Futures, which aims to provide and promote different pathways into the creative industries, from work experience to apprenticeships, skills training and development.
We're doing all that we can to ensure our survival through this period, as well as prepare for the economic uncertainty that we know will follow. We've furloughed 95% of our staff, keeping on a small team to manage customer refunds, reschedule performances and maintain necessary administrative functions. We're drawing on our reserves which we had planned to invest back into our three heritage buildings, and we're tentatively making plans for what measures we will need to put in place to help audiences feel confident to return when we are able to re-open.
We're hugely grateful to customers who have already donated to our theatres since closure. We know these are financially difficult times for everybody, but if you can donate to help us continue to thrive, not just survive, after re-opening, we would be exceedingly grateful.
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 for live performance. We cannot let our theatres fade into the darkness.