I fear that the Leeds Town Hall renovation project will suffer from cutbacks - Yorkshire Post Letters

From: David Greed, Cross Road, Idle, Bradford.

Dear Leaders of the City of Leeds,

My name is David Greed. I am a professional violinist and I have been living and working in Leeds since 1978.

For 44 years I held the position of Leader of the Orchestra of Opera North until I relinquished my post in 2022 and, for almost as long, I have been the Music Director of the Sinfonia of Leeds (a non-professional orchestra based in the city).

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The outside of Leeds Town Hall pictured in 2023. PIC: James HardistyThe outside of Leeds Town Hall pictured in 2023. PIC: James Hardisty
The outside of Leeds Town Hall pictured in 2023. PIC: James Hardisty

The point of my correspondence is to offer comments regarding the temporary closure of Leeds Town Hall (LTH) that has, for me, been a second home in my professional life over four and a half decades.

LTH is an amazing building in so many ways. It was opened by Queen Victoria on September 7, 1858, in a lavish ceremony. It stands proudly alongside, if not above, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham Town Halls and stands as one of the most important buildings in the UK.

Leeds City Council’s Arts Events & Venues Service has, for decades, programmed and managed Leeds Town Hall events and provided one of the largest local authority music programmes outside London. It brings to the city the greatest UK and international symphony and chamber orchestras, classical instrumentalists, and award-winning artists in other genres plus cross-cultural activities.

In common with numerous music organisations and cultural entities across the region, which patronise LTH regularly for their activities, I was concerned in 2021 to learn of the total closure of the building for refurbishment with the possibility of a two-year period of inactivity.

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All of a sudden, the City of Leeds, so potently cultural with its own Opera Company, Symphony Orchestra, Playhouse, Ballet Company and so many more artistic organisations both professional and non-professional, would be without a concert hall or any other sizable venue (other than the Arena).

Clearly the period of closure has been extended and I can only suppose that it will extend further still.

What we hear in the news and media - about major cities of our country cutting dramatically their ‘cultural’ budgets – is terrifying to everyone who works in the arts industry, and depressing and concerning for a large section of the Leeds public that loves nothing more than to be immersed in cultural events, most of these requiring the use of LTH to operate successfully.

In thinking about the LTH renovation project, one can only imagine the demands and challenges of managing a project with a budget that begins to be inadequate for the spiralling costs of materials and trades persons and the rise in inflation. The obvious fear is that the project will suffer ‘cutbacks’. For example, I feel that any threat of postponement to the development of a ‘2nd space’ (a smaller performance room to be created in the main building on the site of old courtrooms) would be very disappointing indeed, and a badly missed opportunity. I believe that this additional venue situated within LTH would become one of the most useful (and used) performance spaces in the city. Surely this element of the project must be protected.

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I am extremely hopeful that the City Executive is doing everything it can to achieve a completion to the entire project at the earliest possible moment and re-establish the full potential of this magnificent architectural treasure which has meant so much to so many people over such a long period of time.

I write this in admiration, rather than annoyance or anger, of a city leadership that is attempting to preserve and improve a most valuable and vital city building.

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