Bright future for restored theatre

Hippodrome Theatre Restoration SUS-180213-093829001
Hippodrome Theatre Restoration SUS-180213-093829001

The scaffolding has come down at the Royal Hippodrome Theatre to reveal a freshly decorated and restored façade.

The work was carried out by local firm, Ellis Builders and funding was obtained for the works by the Community Interest Company, whose founding members have run the theatre for the past five years.

The funding was generously given by the John Jackson Memorial Fund and the Devonshire West Big Local project who between them donated £118,000 to the project. The money will also cover extensive restructuring works in the theatre’s foyer at the end of the year.

There are even more exciting times ahead for the theatre, which celebrates its 135th Anniversary later this year.

In a matter of weeks a 99-year lease is being awarded to Alex and Debbie Adams by the council in exchange for an extensive investment programme. The Community Interest Company that currently runs the theatre will continue to run the venue and oversee the future foyer works as well as continue to run the programming, and co-ordinate all the volunteer work at the theatre.

Alex and Debbie will be picking up the baton as newly appointed directors of the CIC as the current members of the Board; Ben Cooper, Jerome Farrow, Mike Lee and Darren Weir say goodbye to the project that was started five years ago. In a joint statement Ben, Jerome, Mike and Darren said: “It has been an honour to have been involved in the regeneration of the theatre. We have seen audience numbers increase from just 5,000 in 2013 to 40,000 in 2017.

That does not include the increase in community and professional users of the theatre. The increased use of the facility has meant a partial regeneration of the area around the theatre with new businesses and opportunities opening up.

“When the theatre was seriously under threat of closure, we did not want to see the theatre abandoned. We’ve stepped in and proved that the theatre still has a place and can be a viable going concern.

“We have brought shows to the town that have never been seen before and are immensely proud to have built up a strong sense of community with users of the theatre. We would like to personally thank all the volunteers, local businesses, visiting companies and patrons who have supported us for the past 5 years and hope they will continue to support the new team going forward.”

Alex and Debbie said: “We are delighted and excited to be taking on the running of The Hippodrome - a theatre that played a big part in both of our childhoods. The building and business has been improved upon greatly over recent years and we will be forever grateful to Darren, Jerome, Mike and Ben for the foundation they have laid in this Grand Old Theatre.

“Having spent the past 5 years producing the Summer Season, we have fallen in love with the theatre all over again and our intention is to continue to improve and regenerate the Hippodrome, to make it a hub for local community theatre, dance and drama schools and education, as well as bringing new and exciting touring productions to the town.

“We are looking forward to working alongside the fantastic band of Volunteers who have supported the theatre in the last five years and would encourage anyone who hasn’t been through the doors recently, to come and visit us. With our foundation in local and professional theatre as performers and producers, as well as our involvement with youth theatre training with the Trapdoor Theatre School, we know we will be able to make a success of the project and keep the Royal Hippodrome alive and kicking for future generations to enjoy”.

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