Leicester Haymarket Theatre 'could reopen'

The Haymarket Theatre in the centre of Leicester Image copyright Haymarket Consortium
Image caption The Haymarket Theatre, in the centre of Leicester, closed in 2007

A theatre in Leicester city centre that has been disused for almost a decade could reopen by 2017.

The Haymarket Theatre would be run by a new consortium as both a performance and training venue.

Mayor Peter Soulsby has promised £2.2m for the project, which will need additional funding from private backers.

Sir Peter said the building had cost the council £1.5m since the theatre closed in 2007.

Image copyright Haymarket Consortium
Image caption Many of the fixtures and fittings on the stage and in the large auditorium have been removed

"When the council signed a 99-year lease for the theatre back in 1974, it couldn't have anticipated that the facility would be made redundant 33 years later and become such a huge burden on public funds," he said.

"Doing nothing with the building has already cost the council around £1.5m, so it's time to bite the bullet and turn this liability into an asset for the city."

Image caption Actors including Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson and Robert Lindsay once used the dressing rooms when they performed at the theatre
Image caption The dressing rooms have not been used since 2007 - but someone appears to have left their coat behind

Consortium director Jed Spittle said: "Our aim is to create a fully-equipped professional performance and rehearsal space - complete with bar and catering facilities.

"From 2020, that income will cover the costs of the annual service charges - and finally put an end to the city council's financial responsibilities for the building."

Image copyright Haymarket Consortium
Image copyright Haymarket Consortium
Image caption Some of the decor may have to be updated

The former theatre could be hired out as rehearsal space or a dance studio and could also be used as a venue for awards dinners, party nights and conferences.

In 2011, plans to convert the once-popular theatre into a £6.5m youth centre were abandoned.

The Haymarket closed after ongoing funding problems in 2007 and was replaced by the £61m Curve arts centre, which opened in November 2008.

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