Leicester Haymarket may reopen

Leicester City Council is hoping to reopen the Haymarket Theatre which closed in March with its operator going into liquidation two months later.

The council and Arts Council England have called for bids from consultancies to create a feasibility study with a view to relaunching the venue.

The 900-seat Haymarket was opened in 1973 and was run by the Leicester Theatre Trust until in 2007 the trust moved to the new Curve. The theatre stayed closed until 2017 when it was taken over by the Haymarket Consortium to become a performance, training and e-sports space. The theatre closed again at the outset of the coronavirus lockdown and the consortium went into liquidation in May.

“While the demise of the current Haymarket theatre operator is obviously a cause for regret, much of what was achieved when the theatre re-opened for two years has demonstrated the potential positive impact of the venue” writes the city’s director of culture, Mike Dalzell, in the briefing document. “We now have an opportunity to think carefully how a new business model and programming mix can best add value for the city as a whole.”

The theatre is owned by the owner of the Haymarket Shopping Centre but leased by the council on a £200,000 a year rent. Since it closed the city has been approached by more than 20 organisations and individuals wanting either to programme the venue or mount one-off events there. “The proposed approach is to examine the cultural landscape in the city and to look at how the Haymarket Theatre can be brought back into operation in a way that allows it to be stable, viable and not detrimental to the existing offer” Dalzell writes.

However, says the briefing paper, a feasibility study will have to take into account the likely effect on the two other major venues in Leicester ,The Curve and De Montford Hall, both funded by the council, and it could only be viable once there is unrestricted seating post-Covid.

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