Phoenix Arts Centre

Coordinates: 52°37′52.50″N 1°8′6.50″W / 52.63125°N 1.135139°W / 52.63125; -1.135139

Upper Brown Street (formerly the Phoenix Arts Centre) is a theatre in the city centre of Leicester, England. The centre hosted live shows and films of the arthouse and world cinema genres. In 2010 it was reborn as an important music training and performance venue under a new name.


In the 1963 Leicester City Council (LCC) decided there was a gap in cultural provision. As a solution they built the Phoenix Theatre, a 262-seat theatre in the heart of Leicester, responsible for showing live performances. This was intended to be a temporary solution until a more permanent theatre could be established.

Early artistic directors included Clive Perry and Michael Bogdanov, and actors such as Richard Eyre (now a director) and Anthony Hopkins have all performed in the venue.

In 1973 a permanent theatre called the Haymarket Theatre (Leicester) was built. Fortunately there was such support for the Phoenix Theatre that it remained functional and worked alongside the Haymarket until 1987. At this time financial issues forced LCC to reconsider the position of the Phoenix Theatre and the decision for closure was taken.

However, in 1988, with support from Leicester Polytechnic (now De Montfort University) and LCC, the theatre was rejuvenated and re-named ‘Phoenix Arts Centre’ (P.A.C). P.A.C changed roles and stopped being a producing theatre, becoming a venue for contemporary art, film and live performances.

The centre was due to close in the summer of 2009 and be replaced by a new building Phoenix Square in the Cultural Quarter of the city. However, a campaign to save the Phoenix sprang up in the spring and was successful in stopping Leicester City Council from selling it off to the highest bidder as they had planned. In June 2009 the Council asked for bids from arts groups to grant the winner a five-year lease. Under the terms of the agreement film and professional theatre will not be permitted as they might compete with Phoenix Square and Leicester's new theatre Curve respectively. The winning bid, announced on November 12, was made by a group comprising Leicester College and four local music promoters. Social enterprise organisation Leicester Stride, a major element in one of the other bids, has been invited to play a part in the centre's future.

On March 6, 2010, the Leicester Mercury announced that the centre had been renamed the Upper Brown Street campus of Leicester College. Leicester property developer Norman Gill has given £25,000 towards the refurbishment via his Norman Gill Charitable Trust.

As well as performances from Leicester College learners on Performing Arts and Music and Sound courses, the Upper Brown Street venue hosts shows and acts from external performers.

An artistic cabaret show, ‘The Spectacular’, took place on Friday 22 October 2010 from 7 – 11pm as part of the Leicester Oxjam Festival. This brought together a diverse line up of talented acts and artists to entertain the audience. Headlining the show was ‘The Make it Nice Brothers’ aka Naim Cortazzi and Frank Benbini who returned to Leicester to bust out their party grooves after trailblazing around Europe with the Fun Lovin Criminals.

In 2011 Upper Brown Street saw its first full scale musical production (Hairspray) since the theatre re-opened in 2010. The musical was a hit with the public and saw the much loved characters of Tracy, Corny Collins and Edna. The production was created by Leicester College students from all courses.

Past/Production/Events Shows
  • Opening production, 1963, The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder, directed by Clive Perry.
  • Captain Christmas and the Evil Adults (1982), Written by Sue Townsend
  • The Hobbit (1984), written by J.R.R. Tolkien, adapted by Rony Robinson and Graham Watkins. Original score by Stephanie Nunn.
  • The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾, Premier in 1984, Written by Sue Townsend
  • The Joe Orton Project, (2007)
  • Hairspray: The Musical (2011)