Page last updated at 18:27 GMT, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Music hall restoration to start

Leeds City Varieties sign
The music hall dates back to 1865

Building work is due to start on a major project, costing more than £9m, to restore a historic music hall in Leeds to its former Victorian glory.

Leeds City Varieties theatre is expected to reopen in 2011, once work is finished on the development.

It includes restoration of the auditorium, better stage and backstage facilities and a relocated box office.

The Swan Street venue is one of the very few surviving music hall theatres in the UK.

Leeds City Council has put forward £5.3m towards the project with a £2.7m grant from Heritage Lottery Fund and £1.2m from the Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House Limited.

Famous performers

The council said the new design plans are based, as far as possible, on the building as it was in the late 19th Century.

A report due to go before the council next week will propose agreement on giving extra funds to cover the new internal lift and for possible increased construction costs.

Councillor Andrew Carter, Leeds City Council leader and executive board member for development and regeneration, said: "It's such an important facility not just for its performances but its architecture and social history means that it can also be enjoyed as a learning resource too.

"The Varieties is one of the city's crown jewels."

The music hall dates from 1865, when Leeds entrepreneur Charles Thornton sought to capitalise on the success of the White Swan public house by adding a large room for performers.

Famous names to tread the boards have included Lily Langtree, Houdini, Bud Flanagan, Marie Lloyd, Leeds' own Frankie Vaughan and, before achieving Hollywood fame, Charlie Chaplin.

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