The most important unused theatre in the UK
Our Brighton Hippodrome



Council support for the Hippodrome project
At the Brighton and Hove City Council meeting on 21 July 2016, Councillor Leo Littman asked this question to the leader of the Council, Warren Morgan:

Whilst Chair of the Economic Development and Culture Committee; you said, in your Chair's Communications at the meeting on 18th June 2015:
      "A petition with over 5,300 signatures by Our Brighton Hippodrome is not being presented today. It asks the council to support plans for theatre restoration and to use all available powers and its best endeavours to facilitate such plans. I can confirm that we are now in positive discussions with Academy Music Group, the new owner of the Hippodrome, Hippodrome House and the access yard off Ship Street. We have agreed to join a stakeholders group with Our Brighton Hippodrome, Brighton Hippodrome CIC, The Theatres Trust, Historic England and the Frank Matcham Society. The stakeholder group will work with Academy Music Group to find the best way forward to bring the Hippodrome back to life. The council will assist in that process by sharing relevant information for an independent viability assessment."

I note that since then, the independent viability assessment has been conducted and an agreement is being drawn up for the "enabling development" part of the project. In the light of this encouraging news, could Cllr Morgan please update me on the support we, as a Council, have given, and will be giving in the future, in order to ensure the stakeholder group is able to pursue their development plans and that we 'bring the Hippodrome back to life'?

Reply by Councillor Morgan, leader of the Council:

I can confirm that the council has continued to be represented on the stakeholder group and is supportive of the Hippodrome CIC's efforts to access funding streams to help restore this historic Grade II* listed building as a successful theatre and multi-event space. The council's assistance has recently included providing the CIC with written support in respect of its £3.6 million bid to secure funding from the Coastal Communities Fund for initial restoration work to preserve the fabric of the building. The outcome of this bid is currently awaited.

Earlier in July officers from the council and Historic England met with the CIC and its appointed team to discuss their emerging plans. Obtaining the freehold interest is the key factor necessary to enable the CIC to move forward, as it would provide access to potential funding streams towards the building's restoration that would not be available to commercial bodies. The CIC's proposals are therefore dependent on its development partner securing a land [deal] with Academy Music Group, current owners of the site. Assuming that such a land deal is secured, the council is committed to hold regular meetings with the CIC in order to help facilitate progress wherever appropriate.

Officers are meeting with the Academy Music Group on 25 July and this will provide us with further information on the freeholder's considerations. Whatever the outcome of current negotiations between the CIC, its development partner and the Academy Music Group, the council will continue to play whatever role it reasonably can in helping to facilitate the restoration of this important building.

Getting it together

The first objective is to acquire the freehold and then do the necessary remedial work to make the buildings weatherproof and safe. The phase will result in a versatile 'arena' in the main Hippodrome auditorium, that will provide a flexible, adaptable space with modular seating. This will be used for a wide variety of performance types and events from cabaret to circus, theatre-in-the-round to dances, stand-up comedy to sit-down dinners, snooker tournaments to wedding receptions . . . the potential is almost as great as our imagination can make it.
      This is not yet the same as a lyric theatre. That might come one day. However, the proscenium stage will be available and this too could be used a a self-contained performance space or opened out for use with the main auditorium.

As the Colliers report puts it:
'The strategy would be to make the most of the "spectacular hall" character of the building, and its location at the heart of one of the most cosmopolitan and popular destinations in Britain, to create a truly unique arts and entertainment venue. It would return the building to its heritage as a place of variety entertainment.
      It would offer both live entertainment and screen-based entertainment. It would be a social and entertainment hub operating from morning to night. It would be attractive to tourists and locals alike. It would make a connection between Middle Street and Ship Street. It would stimulate regeneration of both.'

How exciting is that?

What's happening?

We have been using the grants we have raised to continue the introductory phase of surveys, architectural designs and financial planning.
      So far we have made successful bids for a £44,600 grant from the Coastal Revival Fund, a £3,000 development grant from the Architectural Heritage Fund, and a £10,000 start-up grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The first phase of acquisition and restoration is expected to cost in the region of £10m-£15m. The 'big' funding push is now under way, including a bid to the Coastal Communities Fund for £3.6m. A submission to the Heritage Enterprise Scheme for £5m is imminent.
      Restoration for live performance and events is now the clear default option for the Hippodrome.
      As part of our commitment to the city's wellbeing we have funded a report on the Old Town Conservation Area, the area around the Hippodrome, that we hope will lead to proposals by the council for the regeneration of the Old Town.

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We wish to thank the Regency Society of Brighton and Hove for a donation of £2,000 towards the cost of the options and viability report.
Regency Society logo

Hippodrome timeline

Key dates in the Hippodrome's history are here. [Under revision]

OBH forthcoming events

Our Brighton Hippodrome brings you fun, entertainment and information to raise campaign funds. See listing.

Our mission statement and objectives

Read them → here.


'I hope they do not pull the Hippodrome down and replace it with a block of flats.'
—Judy Cornwell, who made her debut as a dancer at the Hippodrome at the age of 15 and took the lead in Cinderella when the lead actress fell ill. [Quoted in The Argus 23 April 2016].

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New pages

In the Gallery:
Plans and designs banner
a selection of historical plans of the Hippodrome building from 1897 to the 1980s.
Stars banner

and 100 of the stars who appeared on the Hippodrome stage over the 60 years from 1904. The results of the quiz are now available.

Thanks . . .
• . . . to all those, from Aberdeen to St Ives, who signed our most recent petition asking Brighton and Hove City Council to support the OBH campaign. Isn't it great that they are now doing so?

• . . . to all who have become members of OBH. Now please tell your friends to join you.

If you haven't already, here's a reminder:
Join the campaign..

Go to our Donate page.

We do not want to be entirely dependent on grants, valuable as they are. It is important to show to funding agencies that we have the support of the community. You can help towards this goal by donating even a small amount. For details, click → here.

OBH's vision for the Hippodrome

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Facebook Twitter Image: The ceiling of the main Hippodrome auditorium


Page updated 11 December 2015