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  • Opera North receives culture recovery fund Capital Kickstart award

    Opera North today announces that it is to receive a Capital Kickstart award of £500,000 from Arts Council England and DCMS as part of the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund.

    The money will be used to support Music Works, the Company’s £18m redevelopment project in its home city of Leeds. Despite the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, including an increasingly challenging fundraising environment, the Company has continued its work on the new Howard Opera Centre over the past year, underlining its determination to create a world class arts facility in the heart of the city.

    The Howard Opera Centre will contain Opera North’s rehearsal studios, costume and wigs workshop, and administrative offices. Situated on New Briggate and Harrison Street, the work features a new Education Studio and additional rehearsal spaces, including a new rehearsal room for the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North and a suite of music coaching rooms. The Company’s eclectic performance venue, the Howard Assembly Room, will reopen with a new dedicated and fully accessible entrance and atrium, and a new restaurant and bar will replace a row of previously vacant shop units. The work is being delivered by Henry Boot Construction, an award-winning regional construction contractor based in Sheffield.

    Richard Mantle, General Director, Opera North, comments:

    “This vital support from Arts Council England will help us to mitigate some of the impacts of the Covid pandemic on the major redevelopment of our home in Leeds. The first lockdown meant that we had to halt work for six weeks and, with social distancing in place, the construction company has still not been able to return to full capacity. However, the first phase is now due to be ready by Spring 2021, with final completion planned for the summer.

    “We believe culture can lead the way in the city’s recovery and we look forward to the Howard Opera Centre becoming a beacon of positivity for the arts in Leeds and the wider region. Alongside the improved facilities for our musicians, our new Education Studio will become a hub for community activity, enabling people of all ages to come together and engage with music and opera in a creative and stimulating environment. Coming at a time when the fundraising environment is challenging, this Capital Kickstart award will help us to achieve these goals, and we are very grateful for the confidence Arts Council England and the DCMS continue to show in Opera North and its work.”

    The overall target for the Music Works fundraising campaign is £18 million. With the addition of the Kickstart award, Opera North has raised over £16 million to date, including a significant philanthropic gift of £11.25 million from Dr Keith Howard OBE, President of Opera North and founder of Emerald Group Publishing.

    Leeds City Council has pledged to contribute £750,000, together with the lease of the vacant shops on New Briggate, and an earlier award of £500,000 was made by Arts Council England. The balance of the funds raised to date has come from private donors, trusts and supporters, including a £1 million donation from The Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation, as well as a significant contribution from Mrs Maureen Pettman and major gifts from a number of private individuals. In addition, gifts have been pledged by The Marjorie and Arnold Ziff Charitable Foundation, Wolfson Foundation, Backstage Trust, The Kirby Laing Foundation, The Foyle Foundation, 29th May 1961 Charitable Trust, Sir George Martin Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, J Paul Getty Jnr General Charitable Trust, The Arnold Burton 1998 Charitable Trust and Alerce Trust.

    The Company has recently launched the Play Your Part campaign seeking support from Patrons, Friends and audience members, as well as continuing to attract funding from further charitable trusts and foundations and the business community in Leeds to raise the £2m still needed for the project.