New future for Hippodrome

Royal Hippodrome Theatre  Eastbourne DGH June 20th 2012 E25129N
Royal Hippodrome Theatre Eastbourne DGH June 20th 2012 E25129N

The much-loved Hippodrome Theatre is expected to be better maintained and improved after being taken over by a community interest company.

Eastbourne Borough Council’s cabinet members have backed plans to transfer the running of Eastbourne’s historic 130-year-old theatre to a new community interest company.

Community interest companies (CICS) were launched in 2005 by the government and were created to allow social enterprises to conduct a business for the benefit of the community.

At a cabinet meeting on Wednesday (February 6), members agreed to take the first step towards transferring the management and governance of the theatre from the local authority to a CIC, run in conjunction with two local hoteliers, both leaders of the Eastbourne Hospitality Association (EHA).

EHA chairman Jerome Farrow, of the Marine Parade Hotel, and vice chairman Darren Weir, of the Mowbray Guesthouse, will initially form a management group to set up the CIC, working closely with the council and a production company.

As part of the proposed plan, the Eastbourne Hospitality Association will relocate its offices to the theatre, carrying out improvements to the décor and presentation of the box office as well as providing a permanent presence and a tourist information service. The management group set up the CIC will co-ordinate the staging and promotion of the much loved variety show this summer.

The council will continue to offer box office and marketing support for the foreseeable future.

Summer 2012 was the first time the partnership with the EHA was trialled and the success of the summer season has created enthusiasm for its future with the proposal to run the venue and eventually take on full responsibility for the building, with a new lease.

This is expected to pave the way for future funding applications, vital to maintain and improve the much-loved facility.

The council will retain a stake in the theatre’s success as a partner in the CIC which will work to turn the Hippodrome into a community hub for the performing arts.

Cllr Carolyn Heaps, portfolio holder for tourism and leisure, said, “Our priority is to ensure that the extraordinary heritage of the Royal Hippodrome Theatre lives on through a new, dynamic and viable management structure.

“The council has worked closely with the RHT Trust to seek a solution where they can raise much needed investment for the fabric of the building.

“We are thrilled to be enhancing our existing relationship with the Eastbourne Hospitality Association to achieve something truly exciting.”

This year will see the theatre, which opened in 1883, celebrate its 130th anniversary.