Leeds Heritage Theatres is thrilled to announce that their application to receive a grant of £1,545,163 from the Government and Arts Council England’s Culture Recovery Fund has been successful.

The grant is part of a £1.57 billion rescue package announced by the government in July 2020, specifically created to help UK arts, culture and heritage industries deal with the impact of COVID-19. The fund offers financial support to cultural organisations that were financially stable before the pandemic but are at imminent risk of failure.

Chris Blythe, CEO, says: “I cannot begin to tell you how incredible, and what a huge relief, it is to finally receive this news. The past seven months have been some of the most stressful of my, and the team’s, time at Leeds Heritage Theatres.

“We submitted a strong bid based on the cultural significance of the company, and we're grateful this has been recognised and to have money invested in our future - not only for our people, but for our audiences who have been overwhelmingly generous and supportive throughout this difficult period.”

Leeds Heritage Theatres, which manages three historic venues in the city, generates 98% of its income through ticket sales, and bar and merchandise sales. The closure on March 17 has seen the Company exhaust its reserves, built up through prudent financial planning over the previous five years.

Blythe adds: “Whilst we have done all that we can to survive this ongoing period of closure, as well as prepare for the economic uncertainty that will follow - including exhausting our reserves and taking advantage of the job retention scheme, furloughing 96% of our staff - it is no understatement to say that this grant is a lifeline.

“And whilst it won’t see us completely out of the woods - like many businesses, our financial pressures remain whilst we are unable to fully open - it will help us enormously to safeguard our heritage buildings, and to continue planning for an unknown future, one where we can hopefully welcome back the best of the West End and Broadway to The Grand, world-class stand-up, music and variety to The Varieties, and the very best independent, art house and classic films to The Picture House. It will also provide job security for our dedicated team of staff, volunteers and freelancers, and help us to continue nurturing talent through our Learning programme.”

The decision-making panel included Arts Council England and other specialist bodies such as Historic England, National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute.

Blythe finishes: “It has been widely publicised that our sector has suffered exponentially as a result of the pandemic. I am immensely grateful that the UK government and associated bodies are investing in our creative industries to protect and preserve them for future generations; not only from a cultural and economic perspective (the sector employs over 700,000 skilled people), but because 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 regarding COVID-19.”

Whilst Leeds Grand Theatre remains closed until January 2021, when it will welcome back resident companies, Opera North and Northern Ballet, City Varieties Music hall recently reopened its doors with an exciting programme of film presented in collaboration with sister venue Hyde Park Picture House. The Picture House itself remains closed for restoration work.