Opera North is delighted to announce that it is seeking planning permission for an ambitious redevelopment project which will create a world-class centre for the arts in the heart of the city.
The plans, which have received the support of Leeds City Council’s Executive Board, will create improved facilities for audiences and artists, as well as a new Education Centre to house Opera North’s extensive programme of arts activities for children, young people and families.
The Howard Assembly Room, a ‘hidden gem’ of a venue, which is programmed and managed by Opera North and currently accessed via Leeds Grand Theatre, will have its own dedicated entrance and box office, with a new restaurant and bar replacing a row of vacant shop units directly beneath the venue on New Briggate. A new atrium space will link the restaurant and bar space with stairs and lift access directly to the Howard Assembly Room, as well as improved front of house facilities for audiences at the venue.
An extended artistic programme will increase the number of performances, gigs and events held at the Howard Assembly Room, bringing more of the best global artists to Leeds each year. Celebrated for its diverse, cross-genre programme, the Howard Assembly Room hosts events including film screenings, talks and spoken word, classical recitals, jazz, electronic, folk and roots gigs, chamber opera productions, installations, and innovative new commissions. The Howard Assembly Room celebrates its 10th anniversary in January 2019.
Audiences in the Howard Assembly Room © Tom Arber
Further development of Opera North’s estate on Harrison Street, between New Briggate and Vicar Lane will create a truly world-class artistic hub, connecting the Company’s primary rehearsal spaces, administrative offices and costume department with new music practice rooms and a chorus and orchestra rehearsal room.
A new fit-for-purpose Education Centre will house Opera North’s award-winning Education work, including studio rehearsal spaces and teaching facilities for Youth Ensembles, activity spaces for 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 and the arts.
Schools' project in the Howard Assembly Room © Jonny Walton
One of England’s largest creative companies, Opera North is a key driver of artistic innovation and skills in the region, permanently employing over 250 people including highly skilled electricians, stage technicians, props makers, sound and lighting technicians, costume-makers, stage managers, educators, administrators, designers, filmmakers and, of course, musicians, in addition to freelance performers, creatives and artists.