A stark warning was issued today for the future of Dudley Hippodrome as it was ranked within the ‘highest risk’ category on a list of under-threat venues.
Conservation group the Theatres Trust has launched its annual list of venues that are threatened by demolition or closure across the country.
Trust officials claim the Castle Hill landmark near Dudley Zoo and Castle remains ‘at risk’ of being bulldozed despite demolition plans being temporarily deferred amid public outcry.
Campaigners from the Friends of Dudley Hippodrome group were today attending the launch of the Theatres Trust’s At Risk Register in London.
The venue, which has been boarded up since it closed as a bingo hall in 2009, has been moved onto the list’s highest ‘category six’ ranking.
It means that the theatre that once played host to Laurel and Hardy and George Formby is under imminent threat of demolition and swift action has been ordered to look into all options to save it.
The theatre has featured on the list in previous years alongside around 1,700 venues nationwide which have been deemed at risk.
But trust officials today said it was vital that more was done to persuade council bosses to scrap the plans and return to talks.
Two planning applications seeking the demolition of the theatre were deferred last month by councillors to hold further talks and analyse the future for the Hippodrome.
Campaigner Paul Collins was attending today’s launch to speak to trust officials and representatives from other theatres across the country.
He welcomed the invitation to attend and talk with delegates including keynote speaker, actress Penelope Keith, to raise the profile of the campaign.
“It is important that we are here and to have the support of the Theatres Trust is fantastic because once the Hippodrome is gone, it’s gone,” he said. “The rating does focus minds as it raises the profile of the campaign that we have undertaken and promotes to others across the country that it exists and needs saving.”
Friends group leader Geoff Fitzpatrick added that it was crucial to win further support in an attempt to exert pressure on council bosses.
A statement from the Theatres Trust said: “The Theatres Trust aims to secure the future of the existing theatre in the context of it making a positive contribution in the regeneration plans. The building stands in a prominent part of the town, in an area highlighted for regeneration and development.
“The building was well maintained while in bingo use, and the interior still has a theatrical ‘feel’. Later alterations within the auditorium are fully reversible and it would be possible to return the theatre to live use by removing the structural steelwork inserted in the fly tower.”
The campaigners are moving closer to their aim of achieving charitable status and being renamed the Dudley Hippodrome Theatre Trust.