Dudley Hippodrome – A World Class Entertainment Venue for the Black Country
Theatres’ Trust responds to Dudley Hippodrome Decision
A Brief History
Prominently situated at the gateway to the town, Dudley Hippodrome is an Art Deco lyric theatre designed by Archibald Hurley Robinson and built in 1938. It replaced the earlier Dudley Opera House on the same site, which was destroyed by fire the previous year. Seating 1,752, it saw regular use as a variety theatre until 1964, when it became a Caesar’s Palace – a Night Club and wrestling venue amongst other things.
In 1973 it was taken over by Ladbrokes with bingo by day, and live shows late evening. The Hippodrome has played host to such stars as Tommy Steele, Ken Dodd, Des O’Connor, Bob Monkhouse and many more. The last star to perform on this stage was Roy Orbison on 16 August 1974. After this time, it became a full time Gala Bingo Club, finally shutting its doors on 19 September 2009. The closure was the result of the increase in Bingo Tax combined with the effects of the smoking ban. Along with many others closed at the same time, it was passed to Raphael Properties for disposal, but subsequently failed to reach its reserve at auction. The freehold of the Dudley Hippodrome was subsequently purchased by The Borough Council of Dudley on 3 February 2011.
Plans for the Future
The Dudley Hippodrome Community Group was formed to ensure that this building is retained, restored and put back into operation as the West Midlands’ premier multi-purpose entertainment venue. It is not just a theatre. There are over 20 rooms of different sizes that can be used for a variety of purposes. These can include meetings, rehearsals and education for the benefit of the local community. It will be a perfect venue for arts groups, with studios for dance and drama, with plenty of workshop space. It will be perfectly suited for exhibitions, hosting shows, concerts and live music in the main auditorium. The Hippodrome will also be an ideal venue for conferences big and small.
We are desperately trying to save our beautiful Art Deco Theatre, the Dudley Hippodrome. It has seen some amazing stars appear there in the past. Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, Shirley Bassey, George Formby, Tommy Cooper, Harry Secombe, Bob Hope, Morecambe and Wise, Beryl Reid and many more. It needs saving for its cultural history and its amazing Architecture. Our Council have told us they are going to demolish it. We need a fool proof Business Plan and Viability Study before they will consider our proposals. We cannot get funding because it is owned by the Council.
We are a group of people who are just passionate about saving our historic building and bringing it back for the town. Not just as a theatre, but also as a Community Hub for the benefit of everyone. We desperately want more volunteers to get involved, including those with skills to help us push forward with a Business Plan. If you want to join in, then please let us know either via our contact page or through our Facebook Group.
Being a purpose-built entertainment venue, it has fantastic acoustics and ambience, in contrast to other multi-purpose venues. Audiences can enjoy performances in the luxurious interior as patrons would have done when it was first built.
It will be the second largest theatre in the Midlands. In London, only seven theatres are larger than the Dudley Hippodrome! We are restoring this wonderful building to be a world class entertainment venue for the Black Country.
Its prominent location at the gateway to Dudley means that it will be a major asset to the town. It is in close proximity to such local attractions as Dudley Zoo and Castle, the Black Country Living Museum, Canal Portal and Tunnels, the Archives and Castle Gate. The world-famous Wrens Nest Nature Reserve is also close by.
Blackcountry Gaz: Don’t Knock Down the Hipppodrome!