Dudley Hippodrome Campaign

Dudley Hippodrome 2

A campaign’s underway to try and stop the old Dudley Hippodrome being demolished.

The building opened on Castle Hill in 1938 but it hasn’t been used as a music and theatre venue since 1974. After that it was a Casino and then Bingo Hall until 2009 but it’s been empty since then.

Dudley Council are planning to knock it down but a group called the Friends of Dudley Hippodrome has been set up to try and stop it.

Dr Paul Collins from the group told us they think it can be returned to its former glory:

“It sold itself on being Britain’s most modern variety theatre when it opened and there isn’t another building of that era that is preserved or used in that particular form.

“If we can get it saved then that will be an important addition to the national building stock as well.

“The reason’s why it closed as a live venue in the 60s was because of television and in the 70s because it wasn’t doing what people wanted it to do.

“We’re now in a different era, people are looking to spend more time going out to live entertainment, I think its time might have come again.”

In its heyday the likes of Bob Hope, George Formby, Laurel and Hardy, Morecambe and Wise performed, while the last musical performance was by Roy Orbison.

The local authority say they want the demolition to happen as soon as possible, so they can turn it into a leisure activity or attraction instead.

Council leader Les Jones doubts it would still work as a theatre but has said he’s open to ideas:

“I’ve had a number of people, over the last 2 or 3 years, who’ve approached me as individuals,saying ‘can’t we do something with it’ and I’ve said to them on every occasion ‘If you can come back to me with a viable business plan to make first of the all, the neccessary rennovations, secondly to make the place a bit more appealing.

“Because apart from the facade, it isn’t a pleasant building. It’s not an Art Deco building, it’s an Art Deco facade, the rest of it is quite ugly. As a gateway to Dudley, it’s not particularly appealing but if somebody could come along and show me they can turn it back into a viable theatre, within a reasonable period of time, and the funding is there to do it, we would talk to them.

“But I’ve made that offer on several occasions and nobody has come forward and let’s be honest, after this length of time, if it was viable somebody would’ve come along with a plan.”

The plans are in place to demolish it but the Friends of Dudley Hippodrome are speaking to English Heritage to try and make it a listed building, which would prevent that from happening.

They campaign to save it has already been backed Ken Dodd, while they’re trying to gather support from local celebrities like Julie Walters, Lenny Henry and Frank Skinner.

The Friends of Dudley Hippodrome have set up a Facebook group and petition, which you can find here.

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Headlines supplied by Sky News.