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The Music Hall and Theatre History Site
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The De Montfort Hall, Granville Road, Leicester

Leicester Theatres

The De Montfort Hall, Leicester in 2011 - Courtesy David Garratt

Above - The De Montfort Hall, Leicester in 2011 - Courtesy David Garratt

A poster for 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' at the De Montfort Hall, Leicester Christmas 1987 - Courtesy David Garratt. On the Bill were Larry Grayson, Ian Lavender, and Rustie Lee.The De Montfort Hall is a music and performance venue situated near Victoria Park on Granville Road, Leicester and is named after Simon de Montfort, sixth Earl of Leicester. The Hall was built by Leicester City Corporation and opened in 1913, the initial cost being £21,000.00, and is still owned and run by Leicester City Council.

Right - A poster for 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' at the De Montfort Hall, Leicester Christmas 1987 - Courtesy David Garratt . On the Bill were Larry Grayson, Ian Lavender, and Rustie Lee.

The Hall stands in its own grounds. The main entrance faces beautifully manicured gardens overlooking Victoria Park. Access is at ground level through a glazed frontage into a large welcoming foyer with grand staircases left and right which lead up to the Balcony level. On ground floor level the foyer leads into an internal waiting area with cloakrooms and toilet accommodation, with a lift for disabled access. There are four bars and banqueting suites. The large auditorium is imposing with a Roman style of interior decoration. The balcony has stepped tip up theatre seating. The centre balcony facing the stage is deep, but the side balconies are more shallow in depth. Around the side balconies are promenades on each side. The ceiling is barrel shaped and the Hall is noted for its fine acoustics. The stage is high and wide being the width of the hall, however not too deep, as the hall was originally, and still is, a Concert Hall and has choir stalls behind the stage platform, these are stepped, leading up to a grand concert organ, constructed by the Leicester organ builders, Stephen Taylor & Sons Ltd. The organ is a particularly fine example and attracts many distinguished organists to play recitals.

Entrances onto the stage are through pass doors both stage right and left, and backstage are seven dressing room all having showers.

A poster for 'Aladdin' at the De Montfort Hall, Leicester, with Susan Hanson, Robin Askwith, Dixie Peach, Kim Goody, Adam Daye, Kenny Cantor, and Christopher Beeny - Courtesy Kenny Cantor.The seating capacity can vary, for the Hall had a major refurbishment in 1994/5. Part of this refurbishment, besides deepening the stage, was the installation of stepped stalls seating which reaches from the stage front up to, and joining, the front of the balcony, giving a continuous stepped seating tier. The stalls seating can be retracted completely into the basement under the stalls floor. The hall is therefore flexible, being used for dances and banquets cabaret etc., utilising the flat stall floor. The seating capacities therefore range from 1,400 to 1,600 seats and 2,200 standing.

Left - A poster for 'Aladdin' at the De Montfort Hall, Leicester, with Susan Hanson, Robin Askwith, Dixie Peach, Kim Goody, Adam Daye, Kenny Cantor, and Christopher Beeny - Courtesy Kenny Cantor.

In the grounds of the De Montfort Hall is an outdoor amphitheatre. Originally in 1925 it had a stone built stage, roofed with dressing rooms in the cellars below. However this burnt down, and now the amphitheatre consists of a grass covered stage platform, with grass covered stepped seating, open to the elements.

Famous artists who have played the De Montfort Hall are, Madam Tetrazzini on 27th October 1913, Dame Clara Butt on the 2nd November 1916, Pavlova in 1925, and Paul Robson. Many British and American stars of their day such as Billy Daniels, Mel Torme, Ted Heath & his band, Mantovani and his orchestra, Norman Wisdom, the Beetles, and many of the 60's pop groups, have all appeared at the venue, mainly as one night appearances.

Theatre companies to play the Hall, are the Royal Ballet, the Ballet Rambert, and the Doyle Carte Opera Company.

Maurice Chevalier was to play the Hall in 1931. The Watch Committee however thought that his songs might be vulgar, and so made it a condition that he should not sing anything in French, and that a member of the committee be present at his performance. This infuriated Maurice Chevalier and he pulled out of the engagement, disappointing 1,300 patrons. A similar situation occurred more recently when Bernard Manning was banned from appearing at the Hall. There was also public objection from religious protesters outside the Hall during the run of 'Jerry Springer the Opera'.

When Leicester lost it's professional touring theatres, the De Montfort Hall took over presenting a Christmas Pantomime every year featuring star names. As Leicester is still without a large touring theatre, the De Montfort Hall now also presents touring West End Musicals, ie: 'Evita', 'Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat', 'Annie', 'Blood Brothers', 'Chicago', 'The Rocky Horror Show', 'Scrooge the Musical' 'Spamalot' etc. However as the Hall does not have a fly tower, these musicals have to be presented with either a standing stage set, or backcloth’s hung on tab tracks (curtain tracks) and pulled on from the wings.

The De Montfort Hall is home to the Leicester Philharmonic Choir, The Leicester Symphony Orchestra, and the Bardi Symphony Orchestra.

The Hall also had a long association with Sir Malcolm Sargent, who was its first conductor, from it's inception in 1922, and conducted on many occasions.

The Hall offers a diverse programme of entertainment of Classical Concerts, Pop Groups, Ballet, Opera, Jazz and Blues, Stand up Comedy, Plays, Lectures, children’s shows such as the Chuckle Brothers etc. It hosts the University of Leicester and De Montfort University Graduation ceremonies and the Hindu festival of Navratri.

The De Montfort Hall has been providing a platform for the best in entertainment for almost 100 years and is a huge asset to the City of Leicester.

You may like to visit the De Montfort Hall's own website here.

The above article was written for this site by David Garratt and kindly sent in for inclusion in 2011. The article and its accompanying images are © David Garratt 2011.

If you have any archive images of this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

The De Montfort Hall, Leicester in 2011 - Courtesy David Garratt

Above - The De Montfort Hall, Leicester in 2011 - Courtesy David Garratt

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