Leeds Institute ( Civic Theatre ), Cookridge Street
Undated. Cuthbert Brodrick designed this building, built in 1868 as the Leeds Institute of Science and Art ( Mechanic's Institute ). This was a movement to provide education for the working man. The lecture hall accommodated 1,500 people. It later became the Civic Theatre, now (2003) to be renovated and used as the Leeds Museum. in 1869 Leeds suffrage campaigner Constance Holland helped to organise the first suffrage meeting to be held in Leeds, here at the Mechanics Institute. The Leeds City Museum has the main archive collection relating to Leonora Cohen, including the 'blue dress' she wore to the Leeds Arts Society Ball with the suffragette colours and icons embroidered on to it. It is also home to the hand written tag tied around the iron bar Leonora used to smash a glass case in the Jewel House at the Tower of London. The note carried the message 'This is my protest against the Government's treachery to the working women of Great Britain'.
Many happy hours my children and i spent here - usually on 23rd or 24th december every year, watching the pantos - which were actually brilliant. It`s closed it`s doors now and is sadly missed by us. We would howl with laughter, and it was especially funny when the !firework! would go off at some point during panto, smoke eveywhere, and i was sure there was going to be a fire ! During the interval all the kids scrambling for ice creams, drinks, toilet etc, and dashing back to their seats. I remember vividly the ceiling, it was absolutely magnificent, all bright stars shining in the darkness, couldn`t take my eyes off it sometimes, wondering just how many people had sat in that theatre over the years, and laughed. Great days that will never be forgotten by me and my kids, and i`m sure many other families too. Sad day for us when it closed down, although it has to be said, the council could have ploughed some money in there and done it up.Magnificent place, and all too few of these buildings still in use in leeds now. What a shame. I haven`t had the opportunity to visit the new one yet, but will soon.
frances wicks / kirlew