The Leeds Cultural Quarter is set to become a skills hub for the creative arts, following a collaboration between Leeds Playhouse and Leeds City College. The education provider is currently putting the finishing touches to its new £60m campus, which will be the new home for its School of Creative Arts.
Meanwhile, next to the new college site, Leeds Playhouse is in the midst of a significant redevelopment. The two organisations have signed an agreement, which will see them work closely together to help underpin the skills and cultural offering in the area.
Leeds Playhouse’s Artistic Director James Brining and Executive Director Robin Hawkes met with Leeds City College’s Head of Media & Performance, Richard Lee, on the Playhouse’s site to reflect on the arrangement, which will see the organisations collaborate on several projects and themes, including training initiatives, work experience and building shared expertise. The college’s new 200 seat theatre will be kitted out with similar lighting, audio and technical equipment to its larger neighbour, promoting cross-working practices and training opportunities.
In addition, the college’s second school due to relocate to Quarry Hill – the School of Social Science – will work closely with Leeds Playhouse to allow its students to learn workplace skills for courses such as childcare and public services.
The collaboration signals an ambition for the Quarry Hill area to become a cultural and educational destination for Leeds. The creative industries have seen significant successes in the city in recent years, with the development of the Arena Quarter, and the decision of Channel 4 to relocate departments such as Comedy, Daytime, Drama, Entertainment & Live Events, E4, Factual, Features & Formats, and Sport to the region.
The two organisations have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), setting out the principles of working together. These include Leeds Playhouse’s input into the final design and delivery of the college’s new Foundation Degree in Acting; the opportunity for childcare students to gain experience as part of the Playhouse’s work with young people and the families of refugees; and masterclasses from Leeds Playhouse technicians, delivered to students.
The Quarry Hill Campus has been made possible thanks to a £33.4 million funding from the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP). It was delivered by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, through the Leeds City Region Growth Deal – a £1 billion package of government investment to accelerate growth and create jobs across Leeds City Region.
The £15.8m redevelopment of Leeds Playhouse is being led by Leeds City Council, receiving £5.6m funding from the council, alongside a £6.6m Arts Council England contribution and £3.6m from the Playhouse’s own resources, including a fundraising target of £2.75m.
Up to 3,000 students are due to move into the Quarry Hill Campus from the start of the 2019/2020 academic year, the first completed project of a wider regeneration of Quarry Hill which includes Caddick’s SOYO and Moda developments. The redevelopment of Leeds Playhouse re-opening in Autumn 2019 will include: improved access into and throughout the building; the opening of the Bramall Rock Void, a new third performance space within the foundations of the theatre; enhanced financial and environmental sustainability; and a striking new city-facing entrance.