Ken Dodd today threw his weight behind the campaign to save Dudley Hippodrome from demolition, telling supporters to 'name the date' as he vowed to hold a benefit concert.
The 86-year-old comedy legend turned up the pressure on Dudley Council chiefs, saying plans to tear down the landmark entertainment were ‘shattering and devastating’.
And he promised members of the Friends of Dudley Hippodrome group that he would take to the stage to help raise funds to return the theatre back to its former glory.
While the future for the Castle Hill theatre hangs in the balance, campaigners today said the popular comedian's support was a boost for the their fight.
Plans to demolish the theatre , which shut in 2009 after operating as a bingo hall in recent years, are on hold while an independent assessment is made of a business plan to reopen and run the venue.
But Doddy told the Express & Star that time was of the essence and he wanted to speak with the campaigners to fix time in his schedule to return for a show.
"If they can name a date and a venue I will gladly come and do a show to help the Hippodrome," said the comedian, known by fans for legendary marathon shows.
"Someone has only got to ask me and if someone can organise it then I'm happy to do it. I love the Black Country people and always have a good time performing in Dudley."
He heaped praise on the friends group's efforts so far and said that he had been keeping up to date with the campaign.
The comic told the group to gather advice from other similar projects including The Plaza theatre and cinema in Stockport which was restored by a trust in 2000.
"The group are doing the best thing by trying to form into a charitable trust. That is the best way forward for them ," he said.
"Similar trusts have been formed for other theatres. They need to get in touch with The Plaza theatre, in Stockport. I'm glad to hear they have.
"These people really love the theatre. They have turned the place into something beautiful."
He demanded bosses rethink plans saying no theatre should be close and called on townsfolk to join the campaign to save the historic venue.
"This is shattering and devastating news. Dudley Hippodrome, which I have played on many occasions, was the vibrant soul of Dudley - the very hub of the town and its cultural heritage.
"The meeting place of ideas - the character of the town and artistes like myself have loved the wonderful Dudley audiences who have always been second to none.
"We must all join the campaign to save this beautiful theatre and preserve its history for generations to come."
It comes as Ken paid tribute to one of the Black Country's best known comics Tommy Mundon whose funeral was held last week.
The pair were friends for decades after Tommy wrote to Ken and supplied him with tapes with recordings from the Black Country Night Out.
Ken invited the Black Countrymon (cor) to numerous shows and said he loved Tommy's take on life and comedy.
"He was a wonderful comedian and humorist and he had such a passion for traditional Midlands humour and Black Country folk,” he said.
"He sent me some tapes and a letter. I loved them. I invited him to shows, it was great to meet him.
"Tommy did a lot to preserve Black Country humour too such as the tales of Aynuk and Ayli."
Members of the Friends of Dudley Hippodrome today vowed to speak with Ken as soon as possible to arrange the fundraising gig.
Group chairman Gordon Downing said: "This has come out of the blue but I'm so happy to hear he wants to help us.
"He is very important in comedy and Dudley Hippodrome was one of the first venues he played out when he came out of the clubs."
Fellow group member 'Black Country' Gaz Sawers, who founded the Black Country Festival, added: "Ken Dodd is a legend and it is so good to see his support.
"We will definitely be speaking to him and arranging something as soon as possible."Subscribe to our Newsletter