Opera North has announced that it has received a Capital Kickstart award of £500,000 from the 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 £18 million redevelopment project in its home city of Leeds. The new Howard Opera Centre will house Opera North’s rehearsal studios, costume and wigs workshop and administrative offices.

The building works also feature a new education studio and additional rehearsal spaces, with a new rehearsal room for the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North and a suite of music coaching rooms.

Opera North’s 300-seat performance venue the Howard Assembly Room will reopen with a new dedicated and fully accessible entrance and atrium. A new restaurant and bar will replace a row of previously vacant shop units.

Richard Mantle, general director of Opera North, commented: “This vital support from Arts Council England will help us to mitigate some of the impacts of the Covid-19 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.”

The target for the Music Works fundraising campaign is £18 million. With the addition of the Kickstart award, Opera North has raised more than £16 million to date. This includes a significant philanthropic gift of £11.25 million from Dr Keith Howard OBE, president of Opera North and founder of Emerald Group Publishing. The new centre has been named for Dr Howard.

Leeds City Council has pledged to contribute a further £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.

A total of £2 million is still required for the project. The company has launched the Play Your Part campaign seeking support from Patrons, Friends and audience members in order to make up this shortfall.

“We believe culture can lead the way in the city’s recovery,” Mantle continued. “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.”



Opera North is building the Howard Opera Centre in the heart of Leeds as part of its Music Works project (Tom Arber).