City Varieties Archive

Produced and hosted by The Oral History Company

City Varieties Music Hall

With the kind support of Wades Charity we have been meeting with community groups, staff, Friends of the City Varieties Music Hall and volunteers to capture peoples’ memories and stories of this much loved theatre.“Steeped in History…still regarded as the best venue for stand-up in the land”. Dara O’Briain: Tickling the English –

When Charles Thornton, opened his New Music Hall and Fashionable Lounge in 1865 above a public house in a Leeds side street, few could have guessed that almost a century and a half later, this much-loved venue would still be packing audiences in and its reputation would have spread around the globe.

Against all odds, the City Varieties, (as it later became known), has survived virtually unchanged across three centuries, while most other Victorian music halls have passed into history.

Over the years, the Varieties stage has welcomed many of the worlds greatest entertainers including a young Charlie Chaplin, Harry Houdini, Lillie Langtry, Harry Lauder and Mickey Rooney as well as helping to launch the careers of Frankie Vaughan, Ken Dodd, Ray Alan (and Lord Charles!), Roy Hudd and Barry Cryer. And in 1953 the Varieties became the home of The Good Old Days – the BBC’s longest-running variety show lasting for 30 years, with a worldwide audience which brought international fame to the Varieties.The City Varieties is renowned today for the very best in live music, variety and comedy as well the hugely popular pantos which have entertained the families of Leeds and beyond for generations. Thanks to financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Leeds City Council, the Varieties has recently reopened after vital restoration work which will breathe new life into the venue for future generations…


City Varieties Sound Archive:

Memories from members of the Bramley Elderly Action group

City Varieties – Bramley Elderly Action interviews – 22nd July 2010 interviewed by Simon Bradley

Memories from City Varieties theatre staff and volunteers

City Varieties – theatre staff, friends and volunteers interviews – 10th December 2010 interviewed by Simon Bradley

Interviews with the City Varieties construction and restoration team

City Varieties – construction and restoration team interviews – 7th March 2011 interviewed by Simon Bradley

The Learning and Interpretation Programme at the City Varieties Music Hall is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.