Ken Dodd pledges Hippodrome concert

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.

Ken Dodd
Ken Dodd

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.

'Friends of Dudley Hippodrome' L-R  Chairman Gordon Downing with supporters Martin Whitehead and "Black Country Gaz" outside the Hippodrome

In March Ken Dodd pledged to give a performance to save the Hippodrome.

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.

The former Dudley Hippodrome building in Castle Hill, Dudley, which campaigners would like to see restored
The former Dudley Hippodrome building in Castle Hill, Dudley, which campaigners would like to see restored

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."

Dudley Hippodrome in October 1970
Dudley Hippodrome in October 1970

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."

Comments for: "Ken Dodd pledges Hippodrome concert"

Ivor

Ken has more business acumen in his little finger than the whole of Dudley council put together

the mans a legend and I wish the Friends of Dudley Hippodrome every success

Steviec

Well done Doddy but be realistic and don't start to spend good money on something that well past it's sell by date.

Just to note what's happened to that bloke Henry who was given freedom of the Borough or is he waiting for another pay day.

rovi.osinborn

No where near past it's sell by date, just needs to be brought up to date by being restored. Where else in Dudley would you get 1500 plus people in one space seated? You will be saying it looks like an eyesore next, only because it has been allowed to decay by it's owner's. No worries though steps are in place to continue tidying the frontage up.

Ken Dodd looks to the Future Generation's on giving his support to the Cause as I am sure Lenny Henry will too. The Hippodrome is crying out to be a Theatre again & if you have ever been inside you would say the same I'm sure. :-)

Thank you Ken Dodd.

oldrocker

If you don't have anything positive to say, don't say anything.

It's not like it's your money.

rovi.osinborn

Oldrocker, it's not the Public Money that will save this building it will be the people that use it. Heritage funding is available to restore, & it would be a muilti purpose Hub for Theatre & the Arts for the community as a whole & for education in & out of the Borough, for generations to come, use it what it was built for then say it's not a sight for sore eyes for Dudley.

Steviec

Sorry but the money that will be needed far exceeds anything that can be raised in the current climate of this country never mind Dudley. I love live theatre but cannot let my heart rule my head or pocket

Boinggobaggies

I work in dudley and see this building every day and it has to stay demolishing this building would be a crime beyond belief it a wonderful building that just needs a bit of tlc. Good luck to all the folk trying to save it and a big thank you to Doddy.

Robert

Best of luck to the Friends. Had many enjoyable visits to Panto at the Hippodrome in chilldhood.

rovi.osinborn

Oldrocker, it's not the Public Money that will save this building it will be the people that use it. Heritage funding is available to restore, & it would be a muilti purpose Hub for Theatre & the Arts for the community as a whole & for education in & out of the Borough, for generations to come, use it what it was built for then say it's not a sight for sore eyes for Dudley.