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A new home for Opera North: the Howard Opera Centre

Opera North is delighted to announce that its redeveloped headquarters will bear the name of leading benefactor Dr Keith Howard OBE.

The Howard Opera Centre will take on the new name in recognition of a significant personal gift from Dr Howard of £11.25 million towards the Company’s current redevelopment project, Music Works. Dr Howard, a lifelong opera lover and cricket fan, is the founder of Emerald Group Publishing, and President of Opera North.

Councillor Jonathan Pryor from Leeds City Council, Dr Keith Howard, and Richard Mantle attending Opera North's 2019/20 season launch at Harewood House © Justin Slee

The Howard Opera Centre will contain Opera North’s rehearsal studios, costume and wigs workshop, and administrative offices. Situated in the heart of Leeds city centre on New Briggate and Harrison Street, the redevelopment work will create a world-class facility to make opera; a new Education Studio and additional rehearsal spaces, including a new rehearsal room for the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North and a suite of music coaching rooms.

1. Architect’s visualisation before Music Works commenced: The Opera North redeveloped estate, showing the Howard Assembly Room, new restaurant, box office and atrium on the left and the Howard Opera Centre on the right

The Howard Opera Centre will join another space named ten years earlier in recognition of Keith Howard’s support for the company, the Howard Assembly Room, an eclectic 300 seat performance venue offering a diverse calendar of jazz, world music, folk, classical concerts, children’s opera, talks, film and installations.

Originally opened in 2009 following extensive restoration, the Howard Assembly Room is currently closed during the redevelopment project, and will reopen in 2021 with a new dedicated and fully accessible entrance and atrium, an increased number of performances, and a new restaurant and bar replacing a row of previously vacant shop units on New Briggate.

Work in progress to convert empty shop units on New Briggate into a new restaurant and bar © Tom Arber

The Music Works redevelopment project, which began on site during summer 2019, is being delivered by Henry Boot Construction, award-winning regional construction contractors based in Sheffield, which has a strong record in delivering high quality projects and a commitment to sustainable business practices, including utilising local supply chains and reducing environment impacts.

Richard Mantle, General Director, Opera North, comments:

“Opera North is delighted to be able to recognise the extraordinary generosity of our longstanding supporter and friend, Dr Keith Howard, whose contribution to this project means that we are able to create a new artistic home for the Company, as well as improving the infrastructure, access and visitor experience for the Howard Assembly Room.

“The Howard Opera Centre will be a true centre of excellence, bringing together rehearsal spaces for world class opera productions with coaching rooms where singers can develop their vocal expertise, and specialist costume workshop spaces. A new hub for our Education work will create an inclusive space for our work with young people from across the city, bringing children and young people right to the heart of our creative community.”

 Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: 

“We are pleased to see this significant redevelopment now taking shape, creating a vastly improved artistic and educational hub for one of Leeds’ leading cultural assets. Opera North makes a huge contribution to the city, both in terms of the vitality and diversity of work seen on stage, and also through its work with children, young people and communities throughout our region.

 “Through the revitalisation of a neglected section of New Briggate, the improved facilities for the Howard Assembly Room will work in tandem with our wider aspirations for the area as part of the Heritage Action Zones and Connecting Leeds programmes, creating a vibrant destination and supporting our plans for a better connected city.”

Music Works is Opera North’s £18 million campaign to enable a significant capital redevelopment project during 2019–2021. The Company’s transformed buildings will be a welcoming home for everyone; a place for artists to make thrilling music; developing talent and inspiring audiences; and will cement Opera North as a creative powerhouse in the heart of Leeds.



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