New action plan to save trio of Leeds cultural institutions

The Grand Theatre, Leeds
The Grand Theatre, Leeds
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THREE OF Leeds’s cultural gems could be handed over to a private commercial operator to manage in the wake of financial problems and a recent taxpayer-funded bailout of the much-loved Grand Theatre.

Senior councillors will this week debate a possible “new start” for the theatre, along with the City Varieties and Hyde Park Picture House, which are all run by the same umbrella company, the Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House Trust Ltd.

All three institutions are a massive part of the city’s arts heritage. The Grand dates from 1878, the City Varieties music hall from 1865, and the Hyde Park Picture House - the city’s only arthouse cinema - celebrates its centenary in November.

A meeting of the council’s cabinet will consider radical new proposals which would see “decisive action” being taken on the future of the company.

Among the options being tabled is handing the running of the three institutions over to a private commercial operator. Also being considered is the possibility of moving the whole management of the institutions in-house to the council, or moving to a single independent trust.

It was reported last month that Leeds City Council was stepping in to bail out the troubled Grand to the tune of £653,000, in the wake of major funding problems and a continuing investigation into alleged fraud and misappropriation of funds at the famed institution.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s crunch meeting, councillor Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “The time is right to review how we manage some of the best cultural assets in the city. We’ll be examining the options available to us very carefully so that the most effective model of operation is adopted.

“The Grand plays an incredibly important role in the city’s history and we’re keen to ensure that future generations can enjoy and benefit from its rich and diverse programme.”