Plans are afoot to resurrect Leicester’s Haymarket Theatre as a commercial receiving house after a decade of closure.
It is hoped the reopened Haymarket will pick up shows that “drop through the cracks” of Leicester’s current cultural provision.
The theatre’s new logo has been revealed, as the Haymarket Consortium – which is behind the plans – forges ahead with a £3 million revamp of the venue.
Last year, the consortium announced its intention to reopen the theatre, which has lain empty for 10 years.
The theatre closed in 2007 to be replaced by Curve, a new primary theatre venue for the city. The 900-seat Curve opened in 2008. It sits alongside the 2,200-seat concert venue De Montfort Hall as Leicester’s leading cultural venues.
Several unsuccessful attempts to revive the Haymarket have taken place over recent years. However, the Leicester City Council-funded refurbishment means that the 800-seat Haymarket will be back in operation in 2018.
Consortium director Jed Spittle stressed that the Haymarket, which will stage theatre, music and comedy as well as corporate events, would not be operating in competition with other large venues in the city, but would offer an alternative, mid-size space.
He said: “Curve will still be the main theatre, the De Montfort Hall will be the main music venue. It’s about fitting into those holes that are currently there, where events drop through the cracks in the pavement.
“The venue holds such a strong place in the hearts of the people of Leicester, and it’s important to give it back to them.”
Leicester City Council is fronting the £3 million cost of the refurbishment. This figure has increased from the £2.2 million cited when the plans were first mooted last year.
The council was widely criticised for the escalating cost of Curve when it was built, which came in at more than double the original estimate. The council has also been ploughing around £180,000 per year into maintaining the Haymarket during its closure, as a result of the local authority’s long-term lease on the building.
There are currently no plans for the Haymarket to receive regular funding in the long term and it will be run on a commercial model by the consortium, which has secured a 30-year lease on the property from the council.
Alongside arts programming and corporate events, the new venue will stage e-sports events – which host professional video games players for audiences.
The Haymarket will also house a 120-seat studio theatre and three rehearsal studios, as well as a cafe and bar.
The consortium’s Chris Knight said: “The whole idea is that we run this as a stand-alone and the theatre has to stand on its own two feet, so it’s a question of getting as many spaces in the theatre as possible earning money to be able to do that.”
Spittle added that the consortium felt it important to link the new Haymarket with audiences’ memories of the old theatre, and is setting up a friends scheme.
Launching this week, it will provide opportunities for people to get involved with the theatre through volunteering, as well as exclusive offers on shows.
Once open, there are also plans for the theatre to provide technical training for young people. This will come into force for young people aged 16 and over from September 2018, once the theatre is fully operational. It will have a focus on technical and production roles, and will focus on GCSE and BTec level up to degree age.