It’s been a difficult year for the arts. The Coronavirus pandemic put the plans of theatres on hold. For many this has had dire financial consequences with some having to close their doors for good. Leicester has been hit worse than most places with the extended local lockdown curbing any plans for rehabilitation. For many, the theatres of Leicester City are a safe space, a place to learn and to explore their passions. In this article I will explore how some of the theatres have contributed to the community and why their survival is crucial for artists living in the Midlands.
The Little Theatre
The home of Leicester Drama Society, the theatre is run mostly by volunteers. Having provided entertainment for the past ninety years, the venue has a lot of history. Running twelve shows a year, hosting a youth theatre programme, and being a part of the annual Leicester Comedy Festival is impressive, especially when you consider the fact that the theatre self-sufficient when it comes to financing their shows. The venue provides a space for budding actors, directors, and writers to showcase their talent as well as providing workshops for those interested in the technical aspects of theatre. Sadly, they are unable to offer these services due to the pandemic which also means that they can’t raise substantial funding to continue their work.
If you would like to donate, click here.
The Y Theatre
Theatre is always more than just theatre, but this venue in particular has worked hard to engage the local community by providing opportunities for people from all walks of life. The theatre itself is part of the Y charity, the leading organisation on providing safe spaces for homeless children and adults. Their National Lottery funded project Y Heritage, a collaboration between themselves and multiple organisations across the city, has worked to help engage young people in heritage projects. Not only has this worked to help people gain new skills, it has also aided the preservation of key cultural spaces by integrating them into the lives of the next generation. The theatre is an extension of this, offering a variety of workshops for young creatives. For example, the Y Theatre hosts Rough Draft scratch nights in which budding artists can showcase their work and get feedback from their audience. Furthermore, I have seen first-hand how the work of this charity has changed people’s lives and this work must continue. If you would like to find out more about what they do, click here.
The Haymarket Theatre (1973-2007) (2017-2020)
One of my earliest memories of theatre is seeing a production of the Wizard of Oz on a trip with my primary school at the Haymarket Theatre. Whilst the theatre, located on the upper levels of the Haymarket shopping centre, may not seem all too impressive it has a very colourful history. Initially operated by the Leicester Theatre Trust, the venue saw productions of Oliver! (1977), Me and My Girl ( 1984), and Madame Butterfly (1989). These productions saw the likes of Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins (yes, you read that right) visit the town. When the Curve theatre was built, the Leicester Theatre Trust moved to their new venue and the Haymarket remained closed for ten years. In 2017 the Haymarket Consortium took over management of the theatre which re-opened its doors. Whilst they had many successful shows, the prolonged closure of the theatre due to the coronavirus pandemic meant that they went into liquidation and have now closed permanently.
I was fortunate enough to see what ended up being the last performance of The Phantom of the Opera touring production for a while. The Curve’s initial creation caused a stir within the local community, its design coming under harsh criticism by being described as no less than an eye-sore. But in the passing years, love for the theatre has grown. They have also provided many opportunities for the community to participate and learn with them. As well as hosting the Curve Young Company and Curve Community Company, they also run Curve Connect a free membership scheme open to creatives who want to network. Furthermore, they also started the Pleasance Partnership in which they work with Midlands based artists to help develop their work for its debut at Edinburgh Fringe Festival. For more information about the theatre, please click here.
Food for Thought…
I hope that giving a small introduction to these four theatres has given an insight into their importance to the community. The work they do is vital for the local community. I hope that reading about some of the things they do, other than putting on great productions, has convinced you to explore and support some of the artistic institutions that your local town has to offer.