• The 1963 building was only expected to last for 10 years
  • Sue Townsend was the writer in residence in the 1970s and 80s
  • Opened in 2010 as the Leicester College Performing Arts Centre

The Phoenix rises

Built by the Council with a life expectancy of just 10 years, the Phoenix Theatre was designed to help revive professional theatre in Leicester after its last commercial theatre closed in 1960. The Phoenix opened in 1963, presenting “in-house” productions and taking small-scale touring shows around the county.

Adrian Mole and the Sue Townsend connection

The Phoenix helped to develop the career of award-winning Leicester author and playwright Sue Townsend (1946-2014). In the 1970s and early 80s Sue was the Phoenix’s writer in residence. In 1984 the play “The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole” was premiered there, based on her renowned book of that name.

 

Sue Townsend. Reproduced by kind permission of the Townsend family

Famous faces at the Phoenix

Famous people associated with the Phoenix include Sir Anthony Hopkins, Richard Briers, Tony Robinson, Miriam Margolyes and Greta Scacchi. Sir Richard Eyre was also its director, before moving to the National Theatre in London.

The Phoenix rises again

The Phoenix stopped producing plays in 1988 when the Haymarket Theatre opened. It changed its name to the Phoenix Arts Centre, and hosted film and performance until its relocation to Leicester’s Cultural Quarter in 2009.

In 2010 the building, now called Upper Brown Street, became the home of Leicester College´s Performing Arts and Music Department. In March 2015 it was renamed the Sue Townsend Theatre in recognition of the city´s famous author and playwright and her connection with the Phoenix.

Find out how to visit.

Visitor information
Public access

Gallery

Roman Leicester

(47- 500) A military fort was erected, attracting traders and a growing civilian community to Leicester (known as Ratae Corieltauvorum to the Romans). The town steadily grew throughout the reign of the Romans.

Medieval Leicester

(500 – 1500) The early years of this period was one of unrest with Saxon, Danes and Norman invaders having their influences over the town. Later, of course, came Richard III and the final battle of the Wars of the Roses was fought on Leicester’s doorstep.

Tudor & Stuart Leicester

(1500 – 1700) The wool trade flourished in Leicester with one local, a former mayor named William Wigston, making his fortune. During the English Civil War a bloody battle was fought as the forces of King Charles I laid siege to the town.

Georgian Leicester

(1700 – 1837) The knitting industry had really stared to take hold and Leicester was fast becoming the main centre of hosiery manufacture in Britain. This new prosperity was reflected throughout the town with broader, paved streets lined with elegant brick buildings and genteel residences.

Edwardian Leicester

(1901 – 1910) Electric trams came to the streets of Leicester and increased literacy among the citizens led to many becoming politicised. The famous 1905 ‘March of the Unemployed to London’ left from Leicester market when 30,000 people came to witness the historic event.

Early 20th Century Leicester

(1910 – 1973) The diverse industrial base meant Leicester was able to cope with the economic challenges of the 1920s and 1930s. New light engineering businesses, such as typewriter and scientific instrument making, complemented the more traditional industries of hosiery and footwear manufacturing.

Modern Leicester

(1973 – present day) Industry was still thriving in the city during the 1970s, with the work opportunities attracting many immigrants from all over the world. While industry has declined in recent years, excellent transport links have made Leicester an attractive centre for many businesses. The City now has much to be proud of including its sporting achievements and the richness of its cultural heritage and diversity.

Change time period...
  • Roman Leicester
  • Medieval Leicester
  • Tudor & Stuart Leicester
  • Georgian Leicester
  • Victorian Leicester
  • Edwardian Leicester
  • Early 20th Century Leicester
  • Modern Leicester
Continue exploring

Leisure & Entertainment

The Blue Boar Inn

On Leicester’s medieval High Street (now Highcross Street), close to where a Travelodge stands today, there was once an elaborate timber-framed building known as the Blue Boar Inn. Here, by tradition, Richard III spent a final night or two before the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

The Little Theatre

Many actors have appeared here over the years including the playwright John (Joe) Orton in Shakespeare´s Richard III (1948). Undoubtedly the most famous is Richard Attenborough (1923-2014) who made his acting debut at The Little Theatre playing Lucius in Shakespeare´s Julius Caesar in 1937

Silver Street and The Lanes

The area known as ‘The Lanes’ dates back to medieval Leicester with the street pattern remaining much the same for many centuries. Roughly following the ancient Roman road that connected the west and east gates of the town the street has had various names over the years but by 1587 it was known as Silver Street.

Guild Hall Colton Street

The Guild Hall was opened in 1909 by the Leicester Guild of the Crippled to provide a social centre for people with physical disabilities. As well as being “beautiful and commodious”, this Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau style building was very practical, being an early example of a structure that had been purposely designed to be fully accessible.

City Rooms

This elegant Georgian building, completed in 1800, was originally intended to be Leicester´s first hotel, which is how Hotel Street got its name.

story of leicester
Your ultimate guide to visiting the city