Hulme Hippodrome Theatre, Manchester
What was that building I'd seen near to my home? Living in Hulme for so many years I'd passed it countless times but it had never seemed anything special. The exterior being no clue as to what was inside. One day I decided to take a closer look and asked a local man who replied 'oh, it's a Victorian Theatre no less'. Ok, this needed investigating and some internet research revealed it to be something quite extrodinary. A permission visit was quickly arranged with Mr Wright and I was allowed inside armed with camera gear. My oh my, what a sight, who would have thought looking from the outside what it was shielding from unsuspecting passers by. A brilliant array of colours from the deep red seats to the golden shimmer of the guild on the walls surrounded by greens. purples and any other colour you could think of. A veritable feast of colours, like an artists easel.
Two visits were needed to photograph the many small rooms an the pitch black belly of the theatre, captured only via several laser lights.
Never has a building felt so vintage, so alive with its history of performance and artists entertaining the crowd. The eerie sound of dozens of pigeons swooping down from where the roof used to be above the main stage, as if acting out their own performance to a single person with a camera. An ancient matchbox found inbetween the seats a reminder of when smoking was allowed indoors and was considered sophisticated. Vintage times, forgotten times. Bingo balls and tickets the remnants of its later use as a bingo hall. The numbers may have been called for the last time but the show hopefully will go on.
Opened as a music hall on October 10th 1901, Hulme Hippodrome was once seen as one of Manchester’s finest theatres with its gilded decorations, velvet seats and huge auditorium. Tunnels are believed to have been built from the theatre to the nearby Junction pub and into the City centre for performers to use.
In its very early days the Hippodrome hosted a variety of performers amongst them La Belle Duchess whose show involved highly trained stallions, ponies and dogs. Added to this - as its popularity rose - Laurel and Hardy as well as Nina Simone performed there. In 1928, a new wave of stars performed at the hippodrome. The Mancunian film corporation was founded and Manchester became known as the Hollywood of the North with the Hippodrome playing host to such stars as George Forman.
In 1962 the Hippodrome finally closed its doors and became the Mecca bingo hall with the floral hall section of the building being converted into a lounge bar and snooker room.
In 1986 the theatre completely closed. Today this Grade II listed building is run by a non-for-profit organisation, The Youth Village with its manager Tony Wright raising funds for the project with the intention of renovating the building despite its obvious huge challenge and financial cost.