As the Christmas season approaches, Leeds Heritage Theatres is asking patrons to consider supporting their three heritage venues at what would have been their busiest period.
In a year that has seen the arts and culture sector suffer exponentially as a result of the pandemic, it will be the first time in their collective 400-year history, that the three buildings will remain closed for Christmas due to the ongoing concerns over COVID-19 and the need to protect audiences, employees and performers.
By donating to their ‘Keep a seat warm this Christmas’ campaign, purchasing tickets to future shows or buying memberships, gift vouchers and merchandise, the company that manages Leeds Grand Theatre, City Varieties Music Hall and Hyde Park Picture House is hoping that money raised will help support their long-term survival.
Chris Blythe, CEO, said: “In December 2019 we welcomed more than 60,000 people to our venues to enjoy one of 120 performances or screenings, generating an income of £1.4 million from ticket sales and £198,000 from secondary sales (including bar and merchandise). This year the statistics will be very different.”
Ordinarily at Christmas, The Grand would be hosting a major West End production, whilst the City Varieties would be home to one of only two self-produced shows, and main revenue driver, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Panto. And whilst Hyde Park Picture House is closed for planned restoration work (on hold since April 2020), the cinema would usually screen a variety of Christmas favourites, including the iconic It’s a Wonderful Life.
Blythe adds: “Whilst we had been making tentative steps to recovery by reopening the doors to The Varieties with a screening programme curated by Hyde Park, the truth of the matter is, income generated from screenings does not impact our bottom line in the same way live performance does.”
A recent recipient of several grants, including £1.5million from the government and Art Council England’s Culture Recovery Fund, Blythe has revealed that the company purse would have run out completely on November 2nd if their bid hadn’t been successful.
“The grant is a lifeline for which we will be forever grateful,” says Blythe. “The money has allowed us to cover our fixed costs until March and re-inflate our reserves to zero – reserves which we had planned to invest back into our three heritage buildings. However, no matter how generous, the money will still not see us out of the woods completely, hence our need to ask our audiences for support - the irony of which, when everyone is suffering financially, is not lost on me.
“I know it is a huge ask, especially at Christmas, but I also know how much our three venues mean to the people of Leeds and wider region. The support and generosity of our patrons this year has been overwhelming – both financially and emotionally. It is abundantly clear that arts and culture are needed now more than ever to help boost people’s mental health and build community through shared experience as we all try to find some escapism from our day-to-day and ongoing concerns for our futures.”