Our Hippodrome

The Dudley Hippodrome is an iconic Lyric Theatre

It has many Art Deco features and has been a part of Dudley History and Heritage for the last 82 years. However, it has stood empty and neglected for almost 10 years. Not a penny has been spent on it since it was purchased by Dudley Council (DMBC).

It is in a prime location, Castle Hill, on what is known as The Gateway to Dudley Town. Sadly, it has been vandalised inside, and there is graffiti on the fly tower. It does not give a good impression to visitors and tourists to the local area.

The sad state of the Dudley Hippodrome today. Help us restore this fine building for the benefit of the whole community. © Tim Clarke Photography.

The sad state of the Dudley Hippodrome today. © Tim Clarke Photography.

Dudley Town Today.

Dudley has become a tourist destination, with over 350,000 visitors to the nearby Black Country Living Museum last year. Other major attractions in the area include the Zoo and Castle, the Canal Portal and Dudley Canal Tunnel, Wren’s Nest Archaeology Nature Reserve, the Museum and Archives, plus many more around the area.

There is almost £1 billion pounds of Investment coming to Dudley in the next few years, the Metro Tram system, a new Bus Station and Interchange, two more New Colleges, and a Very Light Rail Innovation Centre, as well as a brand new Leisure Centre. Dudley has plans to gain University Status, and also has had a major investment to its Market area.

All this is to encourage more people to live in the town, and to help with regeneration.

Unfortunately, all this investment fails to support the Arts and Culture aspect in Town. There is little night time economy at present, just a few pubs, with occasional live music. All the town offers for entertainment is sporadic appearances of stand up comics or singers in Dudley Town Hall. This is just a glorified Dance Hall, with NO atmosphere or ambience, having to sit on school chairs on a flat floor, which means limited viewing. This is not suitable for a Town with big ambitions.

Dudley Hippodrome for the future.

Dudley Hippodrome could quite easily become a much needed Multi-Purpose Entertainment Venue and Community Hub, with tiered seating, providing full viewing of the stage. It already has three bars, a very long foyer, a separate large basement, plus many side rooms of varying sizes.

During the day, the foyer and side rooms could be used as meeting places for all the many diverse Community Groups, for Dance and Drama rehearsals, and many other uses, which would encourage Social Inclusion and Well Being for all.

The large Basement could be used as a completely separate area for various uses. In fact, it was a live music venue (Jinxs’s) a few years ago. The main auditorium could once again hold stage shows, including Big Name Artists, Bands, Sporting Events (such as Snooker, Darts, Boxing, Wrestling etc) and, of course, Pantomimes. Such a golden opportunity for Dudley to become a vibrant and exciting place to visit.

Dudley is the Capital of the Black Country, but has NO real entertainment venue or theatre. People have to travel out the area to see top names and shows.

We need to Save Dudley Hippodrome.

Control Centre and Test Track for Autonomous Vehicles.

What has been planned for the site, if ever the Hippodrome gets demolished, is a Control Centre and Test Track for Autonomous Vehicles. This is not needed, and will be of no benefit to the people of Dudley. In addition, it will look totally out of place in a Conservation Area and will do nothing to enhance the appearance of this Gateway site.

The Control Centre for Autonomous Vehicles planned for the Dudley Hippodrome site.

Is this what we really want to see on the main approach to Dudley?

The consortium behind this were given 12 months by DMBC to provide a viability and funding appraisal. This ran from January 2019 to January 2020. They did not achieve this, and were given an extra 9 months to September 2020, but it still seems highly unlikely it will get any further. This gives us fresh hope in our quest to get more support and help to restore, renovate, modernise, regenerate and, above all, reopen Dudley Hippodrome. The Theatres Trust are very supportive, and wrote a stern letter to DMBC about their decision to give the consortium the extra 9 months.

Dudley Hippodrome Friends and Community Group.

We are known as Dudley Hippodrome Friends and Community Group. We are very passionate about saving the building for future generations and hold various fund-raising events along with monthly meetings.

As expected, when trying to save an iconic Local Landmark Building from demolition, there are cynics, doom and gloom doubters, “experts”, etc. But, we need to preserve our Town’s History and Heritage for future generations to see for themselves the skills and craftsmanship of older buildings, even when modernised, to keep the architecture intact, and a place that draws attention. It is not all about shiny new buildings. Yes, these are important too – even if they are all glass and concrete without the character of yesteryear.

Once lost, though, our historic buildings can never be replaced. This is being proven in other towns across the country, such as the Plaza at Stockport, Burnley Empire, Bradford Palace, Wimborne Tivoli and so many others. Their Local Authorities have the foresight and vision to see the benefits of restoring their historic entrainment venues and theatres.

Artist's impression of the refurbished Dudley Hippodrome with new glass extension.

Artist’s impression of the refurbished Dudley Hippodrome with new glass extension.

There is no valid reason to demolish the Dudley Hippodrome. It is in the perfect position, close to nearby attractions. It is not in the way of any of the planned new investment. It can and should be saved. With the political will and help, it could easily be done. Any professional help is always welcome in whatever field appropriate to the cause. Sadly, we have been let down by others who, as it turned out, were self-interested and had a different agenda. This has caused a lot of problems and set us back a bit, but hopefully we can now proceed with renewed hope, vision and enthusiasm.

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