Theatres Trust disappointed at termination of Dudley Hippodrome lease

It is bitterly disappointing that Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council’s cabinet has opted for the early termination of the five year lease granted to the volunteers trying to save their local theatre. Black Country Hippodrome Limited have only had possession of the theatre for one year and already the council’s cabinet have decided to end that agreement leaving them with an empty building and without any agreement for its future.

Dudley Hippodrome is number four on our 2018 Theatres at Risk Register which was announced last month.  Like many theatres on the Register, a revitalized Dudley Hippodrome could have a significant social and economic contribution to the local area, but it needs the support of the local authority to do this. We have identified a number of ways in which local authorities can support their local theatre and call on Dudley Council to reconsider their decision and put their weight behind the hard work the local community are putting in to saving and reopening this theatre.

Over the past year of operation Black Country Hippodrome have carried out preliminary investigations on the building and secured the pro bono assistance of an architect. All of this progress was achieved despite being unable to access the building whilst reports of asbestos were investigated. Large capital projects in theatres are often challenging and it is reasonable to expect some changes in a programme’s time scale.

The Theatres Trust has previously criticised the council’s decision to submit a planning application to demolish the theatre at the start of the community group’s lease, undermining any fundraising approaches they were planning to make. This application was subsequently withdrawn but it is clear from the cabinet’s decision that proposals to remove this theatre are still very much alive.  Local authority support is essential for projects such as Dudley Hippodrome. Even where local authorities are not contributing financially to a project, external funders will look for council support as evidence of the viability of a project. We urge the council to look at the economic and cultural benefit that a rejuvenated and reopened Hippodrome could bring to Dudley and to be open to the opportunity that this theatre affords them.