Theatres at Risk

BRIGHTON HIPPODROME – AT RISK – LATEST:

B Hippo as a MH 1902

Brighton Hippodrome as Music Hall in 1902

 

LATEST: In October 2020 Matsim Properties, the new owners of the Hippodrome, invited stakeholders to a virtual meeting to discuss the derelict theatre’s future. Brighton & Hove News media piece here. The Save Our Hippodrome group added some recent interior photos to their Facebook page.

In September 2020 the rumoured sale and purchase by local developer Matsim Properties was completed and the new owner has released a statement saying that “…we are immediately starting work to cure the problems of water getting in, remove the asbestos, strip out the many areas of dry rot, open up the windows to get proper ventilation and remove the excessive rubbish that has accumulated, allowing the building to breathe”. Local media piece here and more here and here.

In May 2020 the Theatres Trust announced that Brighton Hippodrome CIC had been awarded a grant of £7,000 to support legal advice to formalise the development partnership and to support fundraising advice. Also at this time, local media reported that the owner may be selling.

In January 2020 local media had reported that Brighton MP Caroline Lucas called for urgent repairs to the at-risk Hippodrome, spurred on by the publication of the Theatres Trust Theatres at Risk Register, which places this very special theatre the most at risk of the thirty theatres listed – again.

It was in May 2019, that the current owner, developer Hipp Investments, was set to unveil its plan for the historic theatre in February 2019, but then retracted and said that more work needed to be done to get the project right, reported the Brighton & Hove Independent and the Brighton & Hove News Online here and here at that time. Hipp Investments commissioned theatre specialist consultant Charcoal Blue to carry out a viability report/business plan. This appeared an encouraging sign that they really want to do it right. However, they are declining to comment further.

The good news for the Brighton Old Town Conservation Area in which sits the Hippodrome at its heart, is that the City authorities have approved the conservation plan – it states “The Hippodrome…together with land to the north of it and the car park to the east…is the single most significant vacant building or site in the Old Town and is the key to revitalising Middle Street and the wider Old Town area.” Crucially adding The council will expect any acceptable scheme for the site to fully restore the Hippodrome for a use that retains the auditorium as a single open volume capable of maintaining a performance function together with the conservation of the other front and back of house spaces…that contribute greatly to its significance.”  These requirements, amongst others, made it to the final version. Nonetheless, the current owner’s plan is still to build a five-star hotel, retaining most of the auditorium as a performance venue with no service yard, no stage-house and fly-tower, the stage depth cut in two and access for sets and equipment through the flat-floor auditorium.

Brighton Hippodrome in January 2019

The Community Interest Company (CIC) also commissioned a review of their business plan and update of their viability study at the end of last year (2018), which was very positive about the prospects. The business plan has been sent to Historic England, along with all supporting documentation, for a pre-application consultation, because of the at-risk status of the Hippodrome.

The CIC are also beginning pre-application consultations with Brighton and Hove City Council. Their meetings with officers so far have been encouraging. Their proposal for full restoration of the lyric theatre is also the Council’s preferred option i.e. that a theatre will be of considerably greater benefit to the city than a high-end boutique hotel and performance space that would compete with the Dome and Corn Exchange.

Brighton Hippodrome is the UK’s most architecturally significant circus theatre –the finest surviving example of its type inthe country. It is listed Grade II*and is on the Historic England Heritage at Risk Register.

 

Previously:

Academy Music Group (AMG), the major music venue operator, purchased the freehold of Frank Matcham’s Brighton Hippodrome in 2015 but the City authority looked set to refuse a licence for music venue use. AMG then engaged with all the main stakeholders, including the Frank Matcham Society, to carry out a six month viability study to identify a future use for this unique Grade II* former circus variety theatre. The report concluded that there is a future for the Hippodrome. Brighton Hippodrome CIC has been set up to raise funds to hopefully purchase the building and lead a development project, with the stakeholder group acting as advisors. See the Brighton Hippodrome CIC Partnership statement here.

This great survivor is the most important of Frank Matcham’s works no longer in beneficial use. It is again heading the Theatres Trust 2021 list of Theatre Buildings at Risk despite it being in the top six percent of all listed buildings in the UK and having the potential to be a major cultural asset to Brighton and the region. See the current Theatres Trust risk assessment 2020 update page and view the excellent campaign video. Please continue your support so that this opportunity is not to be missed to make it so. Follow the Our Brighton Hippodrome campaign news pages here. Now with regular postings to their Facebook page.

 

THEATRES AT RISK

It is a sad reflection on our government, local authorities, listing processes and the property owners desire for maximising the amount of money to be made, all at the expense of the communities they claim to serve, that so many theatre buildings have been lost to car parks, luxury apartments or student flats, without any thought to what created the community and would maintain it to entertain and enrich the peoples lives. Hundreds of theatres have been lost and more are still at risk. Click here to view the Theatres Trust 2021 list of Theatre Buildings At Risk.

The Theatres Trust wants your memories of the theatres that feature on its Theatres At Risk list. See their Share Your Memories page here for how you can help and contribute.

See also our News updates here and our News Features page here which have more information on the plight of theatres at risk.

 

RECENTLY LOST

Granville Fulham (lost) drawing V&A Theatre Archive

Granville Fulham (lost) water damaged drawing © V&A Theatre Archive

In some cases, theatres lost to demolition are replaced by a new theatre. Unfortunately this is not always the case. The Theatres Trust publishes a list of all theatres by town, including those in other uses, disused or demolished. The incomparable Arthur Lloyd website also has a list of London’s lost theatres which includes historical details and many illustrations. It is also possible to search for more information about recently lost theatres such as the Nelson Palace, now a parking lot, and the Wallsend Borough, demolished for affordable housing, and now joined by the Scarborough Futurist for who knows what.

Scarborough council gave themselves permission to demolish the Futurist, a working theatre when they closed it, to be replaced by a small theme park at high cost but with no agreement with the rumoured operator, and despite a strong local campaign. Appeals to Historic England to list it, and for the Secretary of State to call in the action, fell on deaf ears. Demolition was complete in August 2018 – theatre lost.

 

LOSS IMMINENT

Dudley where the council has foreclosed on the Hippodrome lease to the local campaigners in order that they can demolish this striking art deco structure from 1938 by Archibold Hurley Robinson replacing an opera house on the site but lost to fire. The ongoing campaign is vigorously supported by the Theatres Trust and the building is in good condition due to a long period on bingo.

Derby Hippodrome is still largely roofless when the owners’ contractor sent to carry out repairs, removed a large section instead.  Several small fires and now creeping vegetation have contributed to increasing dereliction. However, it is not lost yet and a new campaign has just started.

London Borough of Southwark, a cradle of early theatre, has given their developer partner permission to demolish the Elephant & Castle Coronet, a substantial rebuild of Frank Matcham’s first theatre of 1879 into a cinema, but with Matcham’s DNA in it’s structure. The excellent Arthur Lloyd website has a detailed history here. Formal planning approval recently given but still no replacement announced and still standing in 2020 but for how long – demolition started in February 2021. Watch the 1926 show with us in the old theatre on YouTube (at 1.00 minute in) link here.

Plymouth Palace is now suffering increased dereliction since a charity attempted restoration in the face of reluctance by the city authorities to find a solution to inaction by the owner.

Eccles Crown had lost it’s stage house and parts of the auditorium behind the intact facade, whilst the then owner made inappropriate planning applications. In November 2019 it went on fire and is now all but destroyed. A new owner has since gained approval for flats whilst retaining the original facade. This, Hulme Hippodrome (see latest video and link to campaign) and Salford Victoria, both with new campaigns underway in 2021, are three of several theatres around Greater Manchester at risk but with huge amounts of public funding going into city centre projects.

Follow the Links below for more information:

 

CAMPAIGNS TO SAVE THEATRES

Brighton Hippodrome
Burnley Empire
Derby Hippodrome
Doncaster Grand
Eccles Crown
Garston Empire
Hulme Hippodrome
Morecambe Winter Gardens
Plymouth Palace
Salford Victoria
Streatham Hill Theatre
Swansea Palace
Swindon Mechanics Institute
Theatre Royal Peter Street Manchester

 

SAVED

To all those fighting to save your theatre – do not give up – it is not lost until it has gone. Bradford’s Odeon (New Victoria) cine/variety theatre, originally thought lost to a government regeneration project, is now a work in progress towards re-use with a major operator signed up. Stockport’s Globe cine/variety theatre, flooded and thought hopeless, now has local authority support for re-purposing with work complete and ready to re-open. London’s Alexandra Palace theatre, long disused and forgotten, has reopened following sympathetic restoration that retains historical elements, but with new facilities for the audience. Peterborough’s New Theatre (previously the Broadway) joined the saved list in 2020 with a new and successful operator and consistent support in the town.