BRADFORD Playhouse has a new creative management team, which is planning a programme of professional and community productions, and more voluntary participation in the venue.

The historic Little Germany theatre was where actors Duncan Preston, George Layton, Billie Whitelaw, Peter Firth, Gorden Kaye, Mary Tamm and film director Tony Richardson all started their careers.

Founded as the Bradford Civic Theatre more than 80 years ago with writer JB Priestley as president, the venue has survived several troubled periods, including financial struggles, fires and temporary closures.

It closed following a fire in July, 1996, re-opening the following year, In 2001 it faced closure again, with debts, prompting the T&A's Save the Priestley campaign. A total of £25,000 was raised to save it.

Following a brief closure in 2003, it was saved again with a £40,000 loan and £20,000 donations.

In 2008 it went into administration and the following year was re-launched, by a new team, under the name Bradford Playhouse. In 2011 another team took over, then the venue went into liquidation with historic debts of around £300,000.

The property was leased by a local company then, in October 2012, husband-and-wife team Jono and Clare Gadsby took on the management. The building was later purchased by Bradford arts enthusiast Colin Fine, and Jono and Clare ran it as Takeover Events and Theatre.

Now a new creative management has taken over the reins. Purple Stage Theatres, headed up by Bradford duo Megan and Carl Murray, will take up operations and artistic direction from August 1.

“The intention is to continue the hard work done over the last few years, building a sustainable theatre that audiences in Bradford really want to engage with," says Carl. "We're planning a varied programme of professional and community theatre and music and we're introducing a new volunteer scheme to enable more community participation.”

Takeover Events and Theatre will remain involved in the venue, producing in-house events. Day-to-day operation will be managed by Purple Stage Theatres.

Current director Clare Gadsby says: “The community of Bradford has come together and the Playhouse has grown like a phoenix from the ashes. When we took over it was registered by the Theatre’s Trust as at risk of immediate closure, in liquidation and not safe for the public to enter. At that point it needed a responsible management team to take control. We have done that. It’s now time for us to leave the Playhouse in the hands of Bradford.”

The Purple Stage team, who currently operate the venue's STUDIO@ space, are heading up the new community company. Director Megan Murray says: “When Jono and Clare announced that the building needed to be given back to the Bradford community, we knew we wanted to be involved. We have shown what we want to do with STUDIO@ and we're excited to extend the same focus across the building. We have brought some amazing professional work to Bradford and have proven it can sit successfully in a season mixed with amateur and community work.”

Coming highlights include a production of Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers, directed by Carl; Mick Martin's The Northern School, a site specific piece funded by the Arts Council, based on the life of Esme Church and her school of acting at the theatre in the 1950s, and the annual pantomime.

The Playhouse will also continue to work with current managers to co-produce events, including the Summer Family Film Festival, a programme of free films and theatre over the summer holidays, and the Beyond Walls Programme, which will bring its new show The Invisible Zoo to the Bradford Festival.