Leeds City College forges new partnership with Leeds Playhouse

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

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 yesterday (1 May) 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.

Richard Lee, Head of Media & Performance at Leeds City College, said: “There is a clear and immediate need to develop skills within the creative industries to help fuel the demand of the Cultural Quarter in Leeds. The neighbours we’ll be joining, such as Leeds Playhouse, Northern Ballet, the BBC and Phoenix Dance, were a crucial element to our decision to move to Quarry Hill.

“We’ve worked extremely closely with Leeds Playhouse, and over recent months, we’ve discovered huge opportunities for collaborative working and mutually beneficial projects – not just in the creative arts, but also in social sciences. Our students and staff are enormously excited about the move and being at the heart of the action will be a key driver for our success.”

Robin Hawkes, Executive Director and Joint Chief Executive at Leeds Playhouse, said: “Working alongside Leeds City College, and welcoming them as our newest neighbours, provides fantastic opportunities for both organisations.

“Creating opportunities for young people to engage with the arts and develop their skills has always been a key part of the Playhouse’s mission, and working so closely with the college is an obvious area where we can share resources and expertise, helping to nurture the next generation for Leeds’ future.

“This agreement between ourselves and the college further builds on our existing relationship and will help make the arts even more accessible, especially to young people.”

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. 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.

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