All of Us Together Celebration Event

All of Us Together Celebration Event, 22nd June 2018

Leeds Playhouse

Feature by Dawn Smallwood

This was a special event where many had or has an association with the West Yorkshire Playhouse over the last 50 years. There are many stories to be told and West Yorkshire Playhouse (now the Leeds Playhouse) is reputed for sharing such.

Robin Hawkes, Executive Director, opened proceedings and James Brining, Artistic Director, reaffirmed the Playhouse have been “a place of stories”. The Playhouse is to close its doors for its redevelopment works during the 2018/19 season.

Afresh from the announcement of the renaming of the theatre at the press launch earlier on in the day, Leeds Playhouse will continue its exciting journey from its humble beginnings back in 1964 when a new committee, led by Doreen Newlyn, proposed a campaign for Leeds to have a producing theatre. She proudly shared this journey via a video link how she started the journey by firstly contacting Yorkshire Evening Post to state those intentions. She stated how important it is to “understand life” and “think about serious things” but in an “entertaining way”.

Key guests, in person and via video link, included Reece Dinsdale, Sheila Howarth, Chris Atkinson, Nicola Walls (lead architectural consultant for the redevelopment programme), Maxine Peake, Ian McKellan and Tessa Parr. They all shared positive experiences they had at the Playhouse and how this helped their professional journeys over the years. Howarth in particular felt that her feelings from going to the theatre moved her to give something back to the community. This is evident with her involvement with the Carnival Messiah productions and is currently in the current production, Searching For The Heart of Leeds. She concludes, “This is my heart…If the theatre stop, I stop”.

All the guests echoed similar experiences which confirms the positive vibes the Playhouse thrives on and how, under the new naming, will continue reaching out to everyone in the community during the 2018/19 season. Amy Leach, Associate Director, gave an overview of the new exciting Pop-Up season at its temporary space on the site and at local venues. The spirit of the programme will “embrace the city far and wide, hopes and fears shared” and most of the productions will be performed by a dedicated ensemble company of 10 Northern actors.

In conclusion a video was presented and emphasised that everyone is “One of us” and the Playhouse certainly lives up to “More than a theatre”. Brining and Hawkes thanked everyone for coming to the celebration event. Speeches by different members of the theatre’s Board of Trustees and also key contacts involved with the redevelopment programme followed afterwards.