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The Essentials
Suranne Jones as Anne Lister sitting on a sofa in 'Gentleman Jack'

Image credit: BBC/Lookout Point/HBO/Aimee Spinks / Still From Gentleman Jack

What you need to know about living and working in Leeds as an actor, including what acting schools are available, how to find auditions, and the cost of living locally

Leeds is home to a vibrant cultural scene and has produced successful home-grown talent such as Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things) and Gemma Whelan (Game of Thrones). Popular ITV soap Emmerdale is filmed locally and the city has been the backdrop to countless productions over recent years, including BBC’s Better and major Hollywood films such as Marvel’s Secret Invasion and The King’s Speech

Channel 4 moved its headquarters to the city in 2021, bringing lots of opportunities to the region. Head of Drama Caroline Hollick, who has worked on award-winning shows such as It’s a Sin, is now based at the Leed’s HQ. Leeds’ theatres put on a wide range of productions throughout the year, and the Leeds Playhouse (previously the West Yorkshire Playhouse) is one of the UK’s leading producing theatres. The Carriageworks Theatre, which opened in 2005, is known for showcasing local artists and talent. 

Leeds is a great city for actors to develop their careers, with lots of castings happening and a range of production companies and actors’ agencies based there. The city has excellent train travel connections, with London just two and a half hours away and Manchester only an hour away by train. If you’re living in Leeds or thinking of moving there, this guide will cover what you need to know. 

Acting Classes in Leeds

Full-Time Training

If you’re looking for a three-year acting course, the prestigious Leeds Conservatoire offers a BA (Hons) in Acting. The course is taught by artists and industry professionals and all actors receive 1-to-1 tuition to develop specific areas.

Casting director, Sarah Hughes, praised its standard of training, “It provides a great resource of new talent in the region.”

Upon completion, performers are eligible to gain full Equity and Spotlight membership.  

The Mill School of Performance (part of the University Centre Leeds) offers a Foundation and BA (Hons) in Acting. The first two years are the foundation degree, that extend to a full BA (Hons) qualification in the third year. The course is 70% practical and 30% theory, with an industry showcase in the final year.

The MetFilm School offers a BA (Hons) in Acting for Screen on its Leeds campus and is taught by award-winning professionals at Prime Studios, a state-of-the-art production facility. Leeds Beckett University also offers a highly practical BA (Hons) in Acting, designed to prepare actors for a career in theatre and screen. 

Part-Time Training

If a full-time course isn’t for you, there are plenty of flexible options in Leeds to take advantage of. ActUpNorth Leeds offers courses focused on acting for camera, and past students have gone on to secure roles in Happy Valley, Bridgerton, Doctor Who and Emmerdale. Courses are Spotlight accredited and once you complete two consecutive years of study, you are eligible for membership. 

The Yorkshire Academy of Film and Television Acting (YAFTA) offers screen acting courses taught by highly trained professionals with industry experience. The Acting for Screen Diploma is an intensive 18-month course designed to prepare actors for a career on screen. YAFTA also has an in-house talent agency and all students are considered for representation upon graduation. 

The IPM Actors Academy hosts acting classes for all ages, and their adult courses are for actors aged over 18 years old. The weekly classes cover film, theory, screen acting and audition preparation. IPM provides its actors with professional opportunities by filming on production sets and working with TV and film professionals. In addition, its sister company, Imperial Personal Management, is an acting agency that welcomes its students to apply.

Matt Zina is a screen acting coach with more than 20 years of experience and has developed the Trinity Acting Method not taught anywhere else. Students work regularly in the TV and film industry and the classes take place at Leeds Carrigeworks Theatre on Mondays, welcoming all ages and experiences, with a free trial class option.

What Type of Acting Work is in Leeds?

Emmerdale is Yorkshire’s flagship show and has been on our screens for over 50 years. The soap, set in a fictional village in the tranquil Yorkshire Dales, is full of explosive drama. Many famous faces have appeared on the ITV soap, including Jenna Coleman, Amy Nuttall and Patsy Kensit. Faye Styring, the show’s casting director, is always hunting for new talent, “As a team, we are passionate about finding new talent and the right actor for the role.

If you have an unsuccessful audition for Emmerdale, don’t give up as the casting team keeps people in mind. Michelle Hardwick, who plays Vannessa Woofield, had her part created especially for her after auditioning for five different roles.  

ITV Yorkshire has its base in Leeds. The region has become an in-demand filming destination, with TV shows such as Happy Valley and Gentleman Jack using the area to film. Rollem Productions focuses on Leeds-based projects and was set up by the late BAFTA award-winning writer Kay Mellor. The female-led independent company aims to, “Develop exciting, regional voices that shine a spotlight on Yorkshire and the North of England.” 

How to Find Auditions in Leeds  

Casting platforms like Spotlight are a fantastic tool to find auditions, whether you have an agent or not. Screen Yorkshire is a useful resource for checking production news and who the casting team are. Yorkshire-based casting directors include Nicci Topping, who casts TV, film and commercials and Lucy Casson, specialising in theatre and musical theatre, whose credits include the UK and Ireland tour of Hamilton.

The Leeds Playhouse holds regular general auditions for Yorkshire and Northern-based actors and recommends checking their website for their next round of general auditions. If you want to focus on auditions and castings in Leeds, here is a list of acting agents in Leeds and Yorkshire

Cost of Living in Leeds 

Leeds has a lower cost of living compared to other cities in the UK and is 42.2% cheaper than London based on groceries, restaurants and rent. The average rent in Leeds is £896 per month, which is lower than the £946 average in England but this depends on where you live. If you want to live in the city centre, the average price for a one-bedroom flat is £826.67 and £621.43 outside the city centre. House-shares start at £300 per month for a single room on Spareroom

Transport is very affordable and an all-day bus ticket costs £4.50 a day, or £22 a week on First Buses. Leeds is a bike-friendly city, with a network of cycle lanes and paths for a cheaper way to get around.

Leeds is the perfect balance of a bustling city that’s a stone’s throw from beautiful countryside. It’s also a much more affordable option to cities like London and rent, travel and day-to-day costs are significantly lower.

There are several TV and film production companies in the city, including ITV Yorkshire and it’s home to a flourishing theatre scene – as well as some fantastic training facilities and many part-time classes have the advantage of an in-house acting agency. Leeds allows quick and easy access to the rest of the UK and actors can enjoy a calmer experience without missing out on the amenities a major city has to offer.

Take a look at our News & Advice section for more tips and advice about auditions and drama school.

Sarah Ridgway trained as an actor and has dabbled in stand-up comedy. Sarah is now a freelance writer and her credits include Backstage and Actors Pro Expo; she is also passionate about empowering solo female travel.