The redevelopment of the Leeds Grand Theatre created a major base for the arts in the north of England. A £13.5 million Lottery grant meant that the 1,550-seat venue, built in 1878, could completely overhaul its backstage area, offer better seating and acoustics for audiences and provide a permanent home for the acclaimed Opera North.Despite the theatre’s Victorian grandeur and elaborate décor, many of its facilities had been in need of an upgrade: now, delighted audiences can enjoy roomier seating with improved sight lines, better acoustics and easier access for the disabled.
Making the venue fit for purpose as a modern arts centre was a huge upheaval – installing the auditorium’s new air-conditioning system, for example, involved removing all the floors and ceilings – but the changes have not gone unnoticed by theatre-goers.It is the Grand’s backstage modernisation that formed the core of the project, however. State-of-the-art engineering technology was used to build a new computer-controlled system for flying scenery over the stage, and for getting it in and out of the theatre on a hydraulic lorry lift. These changes have succeeded in attracting bigger and better touring shows to Leeds. Other behind-the-scenes changes made during the 17-month project included improved dressing rooms and two new rehearsal rooms. The new facilities mean that the acclaimed Opera North now have an established base at the theatre, creating a cultural centre of national importance in Leeds.
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