Music on the move: Vast Leeds archive gets a whole new audience

Claire Marsh, library manager at the Leeds College of Music. Picture by Simon Hulme
Claire Marsh, library manager at the Leeds College of Music. Picture by Simon Hulme
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IT’S a truly noteworthy collection that would be hard to fit on even the most powerful iPod.

Thousands of CDs and vinyl records – covering everything from jazz to classical to pop and plenty of points in between – are held in the library at Quarry Hill’s Leeds College of Music.

The Leeds College of Music Archive is to move.

The Leeds College of Music Archive is to move.

But at present they are in the main only accessed by the college’s students, away from the eyes and ears of the wider Leeds public.

From next year, however, the collection will be easily available to students and non-students alike when it is moved to a new home in another building on Quarry Hill.

Based on the ground floor of the area’s Skyline development, the purpose-built library will also contain student learning spaces, meeting rooms and offices.

And staff at the college – technically known as a conservatoire because of its specialist teaching style – today told of their excitement at the prospect of sharing their musical treasure trove with people across the city.

Leeds College of Music principal and managing director Gerry Godley said: “The conservatoire already boasts numerous industry-standard studios, Mac labs, practice rooms and performance spaces, and is continually investing in resources for students and visitors.

“In order to remain a leading player in the UK’s music education marketplace, it is critical that our facilities remain cutting edge and enhance our diverse and innovative offer.

“This new home for the library, and the creation of an additional stimulating place to study, will play a key part in achieving this. As part of our aim to be a centre of creative discovery for Leeds, I’m delighted that we’ll also be able to share our extensive collections with music lovers throughout the city.”

The archive comprises 11,000 CDs, 9,000 LPs and 700 DVDs as well as 8,000 books and more than 30,000 items of printed music. The library in the Skyline building will be designed and delivered by the DarntonB3 Architecture firm, which worked on the recently-opened and award-winning new entrance at the college’s Quarry Hill campus. DarntonB3 director Keith Hardcastle said: “It is great to be involved in the development of such an exciting and important facility on behalf of Leeds College of Music.

“We have re-employed the same design principles that we applied to our previous award-winning project for the conservatoire and will focus all our skills on achieving the same high quality end result for this scheme.“

Planning permission for the project has already been secured and construction is due to begin in January.

It is hoped the library – the latest addition to Quarry Hill’s so-called ‘cultural quarter’ – will be completed by June next year.

Other organisations with a presence in the area include the BBC, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Northern Ballet and Phoenix Dance.

Opened in 2009, the 16-storey Skyline building is mostly home to apartments but its ground floor is currently vacant.

Leeds College of Music was set up in 1965 and moved to Quarry Hill in 1997.

Its Fellows over the years have included Dame Fanny Waterman, Ronnie Scott, Courtney Pine and Marc Almond.

The archive has built up over the last 20 years or so thanks to generous donations from a range of benefactors.

Library manager Claire Marsh says one of the most important parts of the collection is a set of around 1,500 arrangements once used by the legendary Ted Heath Band.

Some pieces are arranged for vocalists while there is also music written for a season by the band at the Savoy Hotel.

The items are complemented by the Ted Heath Musical Appreciation Society Archive, which contains articles, letters, programmes and autographs.

For more details about the library, visit