An Eastbourne theatre was given a royal seal of approval when the Queen’s cousin paid an official visit last week.
Prince Richard, the Duke of Gloucester and the youngest grandchild of King George V and Queen Mary, was invited to the Royal Hippodrome in Seaside Road by Alex and Debbie Adams, the couple who run the venue in Seaside Road.
He was accompanied by the Lieutenant of Sussex Peter Field and was greeted in the theatre foyer by the Adams family, Eastbourne’s new mayor Steve Wallis, MP Stephen Lloyd, county council chairman and Eastbourne resident David Elkin and Eastbourne council’s chief executive Rob Cotterill.
The 74-year-old Duke, who trained as an architect before taking up royal duties, spent more than an hour touring the Grade II listed theatre.
Alex Adams said, “It was a great opportunity to show off the new foyer and also to have some of our hard-working volunteers there to meet the Duke of Gloucester. The Duke was enthusiastic and showed a lot of interest in the theatre in general as well as the technical and business side of everything. He had never been to the theatre before. He was very relaxed and easy to talk to.”
The royal visitor also met architect Richard Crook, a historian and the consultant who worked on the recent refurbishment at the theatre, which was known as the New Theatre Royal and Opera House when it was completed and opened in 1883 – following a Royal Patent by the then Prince of Wales.
Alex and Debbie took over the running of the theatre last year after five years of the venue being under the management of a local community interest company.
Eastbourne council owns the building but papers are being drawn up to transfer the asset to the couple to run as a community venue so they can apply for funding – not available if it remains in the control of the council.
The council has however helped with some of the £500,000 cost of renovating the venue, which has included enlarging the foyer to incorporate the box office.
Improvements to the technical specification of the building and internal spaces are also underway and the transfer of the venue is expected to be complete by the end of the year.