Funding of £499,999 has been awarded by Arts Council England to Opera North towards a significant capital redevelopment project during 2019-2020.

Given through Arts Council England’s Small Capital Grants funding stream for National Portfolio Organisations,the support will allow Opera North to improve its arts facilities, make energy efficiencies, and develop digital technologies, as part of its Music Works project to transform the Company’s buildings.

Situated in the heart of Leeds on New Briggate, a major thoroughfare to the north of the city, the redeveloped buildings will comprise: a world-class facility to make opera; a new Education Studio; new rehearsal and performance spaces; double the number of performances in the Howard Assembly Room and a dedicated public entrance to the Howard Assembly Room; and a new restaurant and bar replacing a row of vacant shop units.

The redevelopment will enable Opera North to perform and present more live music, as well as creating new public spaces, improving audience and participant experiences, and creating an open, welcoming and sustainable building that is fully accessible at all levels.

The transformed Opera North estate will be environmentally efficient, including the installation of photovoltaic panels on the roof of the new Music Rehearsal Studio to generate electricity. Arts Council England’s support will also enable a major digital transformation for the Company, with dedicated facilities for editing filmed content, enhanced projection equipment for satellite relay of live broadcasts, and an investment in digital infrastructure.

Richard Mantle, General Director, Opera North said: “Opera North is delighted with the news that Arts Council England is supporting our Music Works redevelopment project. Music Works is about creating a building to make and experience music, but it’s also about creating thrilling, powerful performances and the opportunities for participation that will bring the new spaces to life for many years to come. This investment by Arts Council England is a significant vote of confidence in our plans for our Leeds base. It will enable us to ensure that our new buildings are both environmentally sustainable and fully accessible, and crucially, put in place the digital infrastructure to support a thriving, innovative cultural and educational programme.”

Sarah Maxfield, Area Director North, Arts Council England, said: “The Arts Council’s Small Capital Grants help to ensure that organisations have the right buildings and equipment so that they can continue reaching new and broader audiences, to ensure that everyone is able to access arts and culture. I am proud to see that in this round of funding we have been able to give £3.6 million to support 11 organisations from across the North to achieve their ambitions to improve how they deliver arts and culture to our communities.”

Opera North’s overall target for the Music Works fundraising campaign is £18 million. This will deliver the project, which represents a cost of £15 million, and will also create a new fund to enable Opera North, a registered charity, to deliver more music and education activity in the future. Music Works will create a place for artists to make thrilling music, where people of all ages can learn and participate, and where audiences are welcome to connect with each other and Opera North.

Opera North has raised£13.2 million to date, achieving over 70% of the overall target, including a significant philanthropic gift of £11.25 million from Dr Keith Howard OBE, President of Opera North and founder of Emerald Publishing.

Leeds City Council has contributed £750,000, together with the lease of the vacant shops on New Briggate, and the balance of the funds raised to date has come from a number of private donors.

There remains a funding gap of £4.8 million to close, and the Company is now looking to national trusts and foundations,the business community and major donors to secure their support, before rolling out opportunities for audiences and individuals to play their part in the success of the redevelopment at many different levels.

One of England’s largest arts companies, Opera North is a key driver of artistic innovation and skills in the region, permanently employing over 250 people including highly skilled costume-makers, stage managers, electricians, stage technicians, props-makers, sound and lighting technicians, educators, designers, and, of course, musicians, in addition to working with around 370 freelance performers, creatives and artists each year. Opera North’s award-winning opera productions are created and premiered in Leeds, and the Company performs at Leeds Grand Theatre each season before touring its opera productions to theatres across the country.


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