Dudley university scheme receives funding

News that Dudley has been successful in its bid to the government’s Towns Fund initiative unfortunately means that the plans will go ahead to demolish Dudley Hippodrome to make way for the new university building.

Theatres Trust is enormously disappointed by this outcome as we believe that the Dudley Hippodrome, which has been on our Theatres at Risk Register since 2010, had the potential to provide a circa 1,500 capacity live performance venue and play a key role in the regeneration of the centre of Dudley. With sensitive and sympathetic design, it could have formed a fantastic new gateway to Dudley sitting together with the Odeon Cinema opposite reinventing the 1930s’ streetscape of the past.

While Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council is currently exploring a number of other schemes in the borough, none of these are comparable with the Hippodrome. As a purpose-built theatre with a fly tower, a refurbished Hippodrome could take a wide variety of shows and provide an entertainment venue that the town is sorely lacking. There is also no replacement for the memories and evocative atmosphere inherent in historic buildings such as the Hippodrome. These cannot be recreated.

This is a missed opportunity to reimagine a building with a strong theatrical history and designed by local architect, Archibald Hurley Robinson who completed over 30 cinemas in the West Midlands, sadly many of which have also been lost. The Hippodrome is unique in being his only theatre.

As we face a climate emergency it is our duty to look towards sustainable solutions and projects need to consider whole-life carbon assessments including the impact of demolition. We have seen elsewhere that the calculated carbon cost for demolition and replacement can be twice that of retrofit. The carbon cost of demolition of the Hippodrome and rebuilding anew requires recognition.

In our role as the national body for theatres, Theatres Trust will continue to engage with Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council to make the case for theatre provision in the town.