Friends’ Trust set up to oversee theatre
I had to check twice my calendar to see if it was April the 1st, or as to whether I’ve been on the funny fags. I am happy to report that today is the 14th June 2012 and that cigarettes on any description are an absolute no-no for me. My fellow muse wouldn’t allow them either (the poor little mutt would either be choking on Silk Cut fumes or being lulled by cannabis smoke).
I was happy to find in this week’s Tameside Reporter that Tameside Hippodrome will be operated by a friends’ group whilst Tameside MBC would retain ownership of the 108 year-old building. The theatre has been dead since the 31 March 2008 with shows which would have used the Oldham Road venue transferred to smaller venues around the borough. Though this has meant the continuation of live theatrical entertainment, none of the venues had the seating capacity nor, in some cases, suitable stages.
Three years ago, East of the M60 published The (Not So) Mysterious Death of a Provincial Theatre, a more downbeat article on the future of the theatre. The article stated optimistically that professional theatre could stay in Tameside, though it was suggested that the Theatre Royal in Hyde would have been a viable alternative. There was proposals for the incorporation of professional level theatre in the borough’s new Academies. It was assumed that the Tameside Hippodrome would have been demolished.
On the other hand, there was a slight conspiracy theory in the article that the Hippodrome would have been replaced by a car park, or an extension to the Ladysmith Shopping Centre. Three years on, bricks and mortar retailers have suffered from the double dip recession with high profile chains going into liquidation. Internet shopping instead of the shopping precinct has become the norm for most households. Plans to extend the Arcades Shopping Centre seem to have been kicked into the long grass.
Since then, Tameside Hippodrome has been given Listed Building status with its key features being the 1932 Art Deco style auditorium. This was another turning point towards its retention. Furthermore, its Listed Building status and potential threat of demolition gained national coverage on BBC One’s The One Show, where historian Ruth Goodman was seen sat in the circle.
And of course, this leads us to today’s joyous news. The Spring 2013 opening will be dependent on gaining £500,000 for new drapes, carpets, heating, seats and a computerised ticketing system. Therefore the hard work in advance of its opening starts now. The estimated figure includes internal and external repairs, also much needed, following recent gales which have affected part of the roof. More medium term plans will involve the creation of a 80 seat studio theatre, a 60 seat cafeteria, and gallery space for local artists.
On a personal level, Tameside Theatre/Hippodrome has a lot to answer for in my creative development and in my enjoyment of going to the theatre or other live productions. It is important that every child should be able to see a live play or a pantomime, not only in terms of aiding imagination, but also in gaining social skills. Social skills which are transferable when watching a Brass Band concert or a seminar. Furthermore, the production could inspire them to take up amateur dramatics – and greater stages in future years.
As a member of the audience, I was there at the last show, but the first production I went to was Cinderella in January 1986. Geoffrey Hayes of Rainbow fame appeared. I also made my ‘stage debut’ by telling this joke the following year:
‘What goes 99-clunk, 99-clunk?
‘A centipede with a wooden leg’.
Not bad for a seven year old, sharing the stage with Jim Bowen in Robinson Crusoe.
Needless to say, I have joined the Facebook group. If you’re interested, click on the link for ‘Friends of the Hippodrome‘.
S.V., 14 June 2012.