A picture of two theatre lights


Phoenix started life as the Phoenix Theatre in 1963. Learn more about our history.

Phoenix – a local charity

Phoenix is the trading name of Leicester Arts Centre Ltd.; the charity constituted in 1988 to run the Leicester theatre known as Phoenix Arts Centre. Phoenix ran this much-loved venue for 21 years producing its mixed programme of contemporary arts, live performance and film, with the support of De Montfort University (then Leicester Polytechnic) and Leicester City Council.

But Phoenix’s origins stretch back over 50 years…

Phoenix Theatre opens

Phoenix started life as the Phoenix Theatre in 1963 when Leicester City Council created a 262-seat theatre in Upper Brown Street in Leicester’s city centre.

Originally intended as a temporary solution until a more permanent theatre could be established, at the height of its success in the early 1980s, it employed around 80 people and developed new writers, notably Sue Townsend, and premiered productions that went on to national acclaim such as The Hobbit and The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole.

Renamed Phoenix Arts Centre

In 1973, Leicester’s Haymarket Theatre was built and the Phoenix Theatre was renamed the Phoenix Arts Centre. It ran alongside the Haymarket until in 1987 financial issues forced Leicester City Council (LCC) to reconsider its funding. With support from Leicester Polytechnic (now De Montfort University) and LCC, it avoided closure but stopped being a producing theatre and continued as a venue for contemporary art, film and live performance.

The move to the Cultural Quarter

In November 2009, the organisation moved to its current location in Phoenix Square, a purpose-built media and art centre in the city’s Cultural Quarter. The new building was created as part of an arts-led regeneration project supported by Leicester City Council and De Montfort University.



Phoenix today

In its new location, the organisation today is known simply as ‘Phoenix’ and its focus is on independent cinema, art and digital culture. The building ‘Phoenix Square’ is also home to over 60 privately owned apartments, and 37 small businesses managed by Leicester City Council’s LCB Depot.

Following the move to Phoenix Square, the old building became the Upper Brown Street campus of Leicester College.

Since moving to its current location, audiences for Phoenix have grown in all parts of its cultural programme to a total of 220,000 a year. The organisation enjoys high levels of loyalty and has established independent cinema and digital art as important parts of Leicester’s cultural life. A thriving community of local artists and media practitioners has become established around Phoenix.

Phoenix joined Arts Council England’s portfolio of recurrently funded organisations in 2011, specialising in digital and new media arts, and was successful in its reapplication in 2014.

Throughout this 30+ year history, Phoenix has continued an ethos of being a cultural innovator, engaged with its local community, and supporting and developing emerging artists.

Read more about our history on Wikipedia