If, as it is said, the ghost of JB Priestley wanders around Bradford Playhouse, he’ll have noticed the striking purple flock wallpaper in the newly-decorated foyer.

It’s a chic new look for the historic Little Germany theatre, which has been relaunched with a new name, new branding and new plans.

Downstairs there’s a stylishly refurbished cafe bar, with subtle lighting and sink-into sofas. Upstairs, artists rent rooms and, during my visit, the London School of Puppetry was rehearsing in the Studio theatre.

Last autumn, The Priestley, which had gone into administration for the third time, was reborn as Bradford Playhouse with a new team in charge, aiming to broaden its appeal.

This month it is due out of administration. Vintage costumes from wardrobe are being sold to repay debts and a new arts programme has been introduced to bring in greater numbers of – and more diverse – visitors.

The cafe bar is home to comedy and music events and a gallery space, in the auditorium there are shows and film screenings, and there are plans to develop it as a live music venue.

The theatre nearly closed in 2001 with debts of £14,000, prompting the Telegraph & Argus to launch a Save The Priestley campaign. A total of £25,000 was raised. In 2003 the theatre closed briefly; the directors owed £60,000 to creditors and struggled to find funding for its long-term future. A loan of £40,000, and £20,000 in private donations saved it, then the company went into administration again.

The venue is largely run by volunteers and staffed by a full-time administrator and four part-time workers – creative director Jenny Wilson, managers Aid Todd and Samantha Musgrave and consultant Bev Morton, whose jobs are supported by Arts Council England.

“Sam and I are artists who got involved through putting on arts events here,” says Aid. “Most of the board are artists; there’s an exciting chemistry with an arts collective. Providing space for professional and non-professional artists leads to an organic growth of more creative work and potential partnerships with creative organisations.”

Hatch, an in-house programme of events performed around the building, is overseen by Playhouse creative director Jenny Wilson and Bradford arts organisation Fabric, and provides a platform for artists and performers, from film-makers to dancers and puppeteers.

“It started with someone performing as a boxer – fighting himself. He did the act in the foyer and it went from there!” says Aid. “We have things like dance in the auditorium, films in the Studio, multimedia art in the bar and works-in-progress all around.”

Another in-house initiative is Flock, a monthly cabaret night which continues tomorrow with a performance by comic actress Helen Kane performing as Marilyn Monroe.

The Playhouse has traditionally been used by amateur drama companies, and that continues alongside the new programme. “We’re regarded as home by these groups and there’s at least one amateur production a month. This was initially a producing theatre with a rep company, and we want that to continue,” says Jenny. “But we’re also bringing in new energy, making it relevant to a broader range of people.

“This beautiful old building was built as a civic venue. We take that responsibility seriously.”

The theatre is a hive of community activity. Bradford Stage And Theatre School meets every Saturday; a group of learning-disabled adults are working on a performance; Bradford Youth Service use it as a meeting place; and a schools arts programme is planned.

“If a group has no place to meet, we’d love to hear from them,” says Jenny. “We’re open to suggestions from businesses for partnership or sponsorship projects. We have a useful space here. The cafe bar is open when there’s an event on, and we’re working towards opening it during the day too. We’re seeking volunteers.”

While it continues to provide a community role, the Playhouse also embraces a wider cultural spectrum.

“People can come with an idea. If it’s exciting we’ll get them in – whether it’s a ‘self-boxer’, a drama society or a gipsy punk band!” says Aid. “We embrace energy coming in, just as the energy Sam and I brought was embraced. It creates a buzz and gets a new generation involved, taking the Playhouse into the future.”

The historic building, founded more than 70 years ago with JB Priestley as its first president, was originally a theatre and cinema. Now the Playhouse is screening films again, two decades after it was last a cinema.

“We try to theme films. On May 31 we’re holding a vintage fashion show, a tea-dance and a screening of Breakfast At Tiffany’s,” says Jenny. “We have a vintage clothes sales this Sunday, with clothes dating back to the 1920s.” Dotted about in the bar are feedback cards inviting visitors to ‘tell us what you think’.

“We want to know what they want out of this place,” says Aid. “What I encountered before was people saying, ‘I remember the Playhouse from when I was a kid; I thought it burned down or closed’. But, gradually, people are seeing it as an exciting arts venue.”

What's coming up

Tonight: Jazz At The Playhouse, with the Ben Crosland Quartet, from 8.30pm.

Tomorrow: Flock, with Helen Kane as ‘Marilyn Monroe’, Little Johnny Cash and Pupperoos puppet company, and Bradford’s ‘Faux Queen’ Mysti Valentine as compere, from 8pm.

Sunday: Cloth House vintage sale from noon to 4pm and a screening of Singin’ In The Rain, at 3.30pm.

April 16: The next Hatch event.

May 1-29: Mark Yates’s Wreaking Havoc art exhibition.

For more about Bradford Playhouse, ring (01274) 820666 or visit bradfordplayhouse.co.uk.