It is with a heavy heart that we have learned of the passing of our good friend Kay Mellor. Leeds born and bred, Kay was a pioneer of northern drama and real-life stories, going where no other female writer, director, or actor had gone before. We’re deeply proud and humbled to have been chosen as the home venue for her two stage premieres, Fat Friends The Musical (2017) and Band of Gold (2019) – both of which were huge success stories, as was everything that Kay turned her hand to. The hearts and thoughts of our theatre family are with her family, who we are also blessed to call friends of our theatres.

A Tribute to Barry Cryer

Leeds Heritage Theatres is incredibly saddened to hear about the passing of our dear friend, Barry Cryer, whose ‘first paid job’ was on our City Varieties stage.

Written by Ellen Carnazza and Bryony Jameson.

Ode To The City Varieties by Barry Cryer

Ode To The City Varieties (So Much)

I hail, without fail, The City Varieties
While observing all the properties
My reaction is emotional – to me
The CV is a joyful part of my CV
My first paid job in 1956
A tough call it is true, and the memory sticks
Of my mother coming to see me –
I waited for her advice
Her only comment: “The suit looked nice”.
The Good Old Days and Chairman Leonard Sachs
The consummate host – your poet now racks
His memory – Leonard sitting there –
Throughout the show
His chair was commodious, I’ll have you know
Bernard Cribbins and the laughs we had
In our double act.
And on my own – this is a fact
Masquerading as a Scot in kilt and tam o’shanter
Oh the memories, oh, the banter
And now the dear place is 150 years old
Makes me feel young – my tale is told
I’m not with you today, alack, alas
So here in St Albans, I raise a glass
Not before time, I now retire
I greet you, toast you, thank you, Barry Cryer.

Barry Cryer’s first ever paid gig was here, at the City Varieties, in 1956 as part of a mixed bill including strip stars such as “The Beautiful and Daring” Dorothe’a French.

Here is the playbill from that very first week. The rest, they say, is history.

“I’d been at the old Empire Theatre on Briggate, showing off for charity, I was at University of Leeds and Stanley and Michael Joseph offered me a week’s work. That was a real induction, I was suddenly a professional comedian. Eight shows that week, with strippers! You weren’t showing off for charity anymore, I learnt my business in that one week” – speaking in 2010.

Listen to more of Barry Cryer speaking about The Varieties here.

Barry would go on to become a favourite of The Good Old Days, performing several times in the BBC variety show, recorded at City Varieties. Watch one of his episodes from 1975 below.

A playbill from 1956 featuring Barry Cryer

Copyright: Leeds Library and Information Services - Playbills Collection