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Brighton council urged to support Hippodrome’s return as live venue

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Industry chiefs have written to Brighton and Hove City Council, urging it to support Brighton Hippodrome’s return to being a live performance venue.

Cameron Mackintosh managing director Nicholas Allott, along with Roundhouse artistic director and chief executive Marcus Davey, said that the disused Hippodrome was a “jewel of a space”, arguing that it could serve as a multi-purpose arts venue if restored.

Royal Central School of Speech and Drama principal Gavin Henderson added that the 1,400-seat venue could become the home to “one of the major new circus companies” in the UK.

The venue was recently named one of the UK’s top theatres at risk from being lost as a performance space by national advisory body the Theatres Trust after proposals to slice up the grade II*-listed building into a cinema complex were revealed.

Alaska Development Consultants is planning an £18 million conversion of the venue into an eight-screen cinema and bar complex, which would involve demolishing the stage house and leasing out parts of the building.

Earlier this year, the developer said it was in “detailed discussions” with Vue Entertainment for the cinema space and that talks had commenced with leading restaurant groups.

Writing to the local authority’s assistant chief executive in his capacity as a trustee of the Theatres Trust, Allott said: “Partially restored, the theatre could serve as a multi-purpose arts venue, akin to the Roundhouse [in London] and a natural candidate for entry into the round buildings network in Europe. Furthermore, and an important commercial point, it has the potential to play host to high profile events, dinners and award ceremonies.”

Speaking to The Stage, Davey said: “Not to take up the potential of having another round venue so close to London would be really sad. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, especially in the economic climate.”

He added: “If the Hippodrome were restored to a live venue it would be great to create a partnership between it and the Roundhouse.”

Meanwhile, Henderson, who is the former director and chief executive of Brighton Festival, said: “The stage house of the Hippodrome is significantly better than either the [Brighton] Dome or Theatre Royal. It would do more, as it is, to bring a wider range of commercial theatre, ballet and opera to Brighton.”

He added: “I would urge that the city council should take time to study more widely the potential future use and management of the Hippodrome. There are those, and I am one, who would be prepared to create a co-operative trust to secure the future of the building.”

A spokesman for Brighton and Hove City Council said it had not yet received a planning application from the Brighton Hippodrome developers.

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