Hippodrome Group Confident Of Finalising Lease Deal

The interior of the Dudley Hippodrome taken in 1957

Campaigners are hopeful the deal to allow them to take over Dudley Hippodrome will be completed next month.

Black Country Hippodrome Ltd - a group derived from the Friends of Dudley Hippodrome to give the theatre a more regional scope - are waiting to be given the keys to the famous building. However the process has been held up by legal discussions with paperwork needing to be finalised between the group and Dudley Council.

Members will be handed a five-year lease to allow them to refurbish the derelict former theatre on Castle Hill. Gordon Downing, a director of Black Country Hippodrome Ltd, said he was hopeful the agreement would be finalised by mid November.

The move comes after a last-ditch bid to take over the Hippodrome, along with  political shift within Dudley Council, saved it from the bulldozers. The venue hasn't been used as a theatre since the early 70's, having latterly functioned as bingo hall before doors closed in 2009. If the auditorium was refurbished to its original layout and could attract the interest of touring productions, the theatre would become the second largest in the region with only Birmingham Hippodrome eclipsing its seating capacity. 

In its heyday, the venue played host to acts including Morcambe and Wise, Judy Garland and Laurel and Hardy. However opinions as to the viability of the theatre as a modern day stage are divided. Some local residents fear its a waste of money and accusing the steering group of clinging onto the past. But many are hopeful it could bring tourists to the area with one person saying:

"The building, in it's day, was one of the most highly regarded theatres in the country. It'd be amazing to give the Black Country an identity and re-open a theatre again.

"However my only hope is that 'theatre' is the buildings primary use - I'd hate to see it become a multi-purpose venue that doesn't feature on the professional touring circuit. We've got plenty of those in the area and they're closing by the month."


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