Built in 1865, this much loved venue, hidden in the heart of Leeds city centre, has survived virtually unchanged across three centuries while most other Victorian Music Halls have passed into history. Many of the world's greatest entertainers have trodden the boards here including, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harry Houdini, Lilly Langtry, Harry Lauder and Mickey Rooney. It has played a key role in the careers of the likes of Frankie Vaughan, Ken Dodd, Ray Alan (and Lord Charles!), The Chuckle Brothers, Roy Hudd and Barry Cryer. For thirty years, the Varieties was also the home of BBC TV's record breaking The Good Old Days which began broadcasting in 1953 and was screened around the world.
Following our closure in early 2009, the Varieties has undergone an amazing amount of work including a complete demolition and then reconstruction of the backstage areas, painstaking ceiling and plasterwork repairs, new carpeting and seating throughout the auditorium and major excavations to re-establish the ancient cellar network.
Over the last 20 years, City Varieties has established an unrivalled reputation for presenting the very best in live music, variety and comedy as well as hugely popular annual pantomimes which have enteretained Leeds' families for generations.
The £9.925m refurbishment of City Varieties was funded by Leeds City Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund with the remainder coming from our own fundraising efforts. Significant sums have been raised by the Friends of the City Varieties and The Monument Trust and individual donors in addition to revenues from other events and activities but there is still almost half a million pounds to be found and the campaign continues following the re-opening with ongoing fundraising activity and a nominal 60p ticket levy on all performances.
We very much appreciate the many performers who have given us their time and support over the last few years including Barry Cryer, Paul Merton, Dara O'Briain, Marc Almond, Kate Rusby, Dave Spikey, Roy Hudd, Tony Robinson, Gervase Phinn and Ken Dodd. We are hugely grateful to the family of Leeds entrepreneur and philanthropist Jimi Heselden which has chosen to name the City Varieties auditorium in his honour, establishing a very fitting tribute within a venue very close the hearts of the Leeds' community.