Hippodrome supporters decorate hoardings to send message to council

Supporters of Dudley Hippodrome have attached padlocks and signs to a hoarding outside the Castle Hill venue, urging the public to get behind their campaign to change the council's mind.

A number of messages have appeared on fencing over the weekend, with sentiments including 'Don't demolish Dudley's iconic heritage' and 'Dudley need's a real entertainment venue' which they hope will stir public support and send a message to Dudley Council.

It was announced in September that the former 1,750 seat variety theatre - in its day, one of the largest in the region - would be demolished and replaced with a university park as part of a multi-million pound regeneration of Castle Hill. The venue has not staged a show since the 1960s, having more recently been used as a bingo hall.

However the Dudley Hippodrome Supporters group have continued to fight to retain the building as a landmark performance space. Speaking about the redevelopment prospect, Cllr Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, said:

"We are very excited about the potential we have with the university proposals which will accelerate what is already a busy programme of regeneration work. This work will have a massive economic impact on the town – for businesses, shoppers and anyone visiting the historic capital of the Black Country.

"When complete, Dudley will be home to a university, very light rail innovation, revolutionised public transport, new accommodation and much more to hammer home that we mean business when it comes to improving our town.

“I can completely understand local campaigners wanting to save the former Hippodrome building, and I am encouraged to see community groups working so passionately to improve the town. But we simply cannot allow this discussion to continue for another decade after exhausting every opportunity to find an enormous amount of funding"

Supporters have created an online petition, which has attracted over 1,000 signatures and are crowdfunding towards the venues future which they hope will demonstrate their commitment to the building's future. A spokesperson said: 

"The Dudley Hippodrome played host to some of the greats, including Laurel and Hardy, Judy Garland and Tommy Cooper. It can bring so much into the town, such as West End shows, pantomimes and important revenue. More visitors will get Dudley back on the map in regards to arts, culture and theatre.

"The Hippodrome has such a unique set up that the rooms inside would also be available to various community groups to access - but this will only be possible if we get signatures. Please leave your mark on something that will be of enjoyment for generations to come."

Supporters have adorned the frontage of the venue with padlocks and signs.

Supporters had a further boost last year with the backing of the Theatres Trust. Director, Jon Morgan, criticised Dudley Council's decision to bulldoze the Hippodrome. He said:

"Theatres Trust is extremely disappointed by the news that Dudley Council has voted go ahead with its plans for the regeneration of the site of Dudley Hippodrome, which will mean the demolition of this building which we believe could still have cultural or community use.

"A late-1930s purpose-built variety theatre, the Hippodrome is Dudley’s only remaining lyric theatre and has been on our Theatres at Risk Register since 2010.

"Theatres Trust is a statutory consultee in planning and as such the council will need to consult with us on the proposed demolition of the Hippodrome - we can not support the demolition of theatre buildings until their viability has been disproven and this has yet to be done for Dudley Hippodrome.

"Demolition would mean the loss of a cultural venue and a building of, we believe, national significance."

You can find out more about the Supporters group and their campaign on their Facebook group.


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