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Brighton Hippodrome ripe to become a ‘theatre of varieties’, report concludes

Brighton Hippodrome. Photo: Theatres Trust

Brighton Hippodrome has moved a step closer to being revived as a performance venue, following a viability study that found it should become a “theatre of varieties”.

The Hippodrome has featured on the Theatres Trust’s Theatre Buildings at Risk register since 2009 [1] and has been plagued with uncertainty over its future after its closure as a bingo hall in 2007.

Plans have since included turning the theatre into a cinema and restaurant complex, which fell through earlier this year [2].

Following the grade II*-listed theatre’s sale to Academy Music Group in June [3], the viability study was commissioned by a stakeholders group of seven organisations including the Theatres Trust, Brighton and Hove City Council and Our Brighton Hippodrome.

The study, which has taken six months to complete, found that the Hippodrome has a “viable future as a live performance venue”, if funds can be raised to restore the building.

Several options were proposed as part of the report, with the preferred option being to operate the theatre as a “theatre of varieties”.

This would give it a capacity of around 900 seats and would allow it to be used flexibly, incorporating a number of different genres as well as opening up its use for major events.

This option is estimated to cost £13 million.

The study found that restoring the Hippodrome into a theatre of varieties was “the most deliverable solution and, arguably, could be the most effective in regenerating that part of Brighton and making the building safe in the long-term”.

Other options include transforming the venue into a full lyric theatre, capable of hosting large touring productions and musicals, at a cost of £30 million.

The study found that there was a case to be made for this, as it would fill a gap in theatre provision in Brighton, however the report said the Hippodrome’s building constraints meant it was not optimal for large touring shows.

The report also estimated that it would take 10 years to raise the funds for this sort of restoration.

Brighton Hippodrome Community Interest Company is now leading the project and will concentrate on making grant applications and seeking out commercial partners.

Chair of Brighton Hippodrome CIC Gavin Henderson said: “The viability study has helped us find a way forward for the Hippodrome, but there is a long way to go from here before we can bring performances back to this wonderful building.”

As part of the agreement with AMG, the conclusion of the six months used to undertake the study will see the company open the building up for offers on its freehold.

Mhora Samuel, director of the Theatres Trust, said: “We have been very grateful for the six-month window provided by AMG. It has allowed us to work closely together as a group of stakeholders and produce a viability report which gives us confidence that a revived Brighton Hippodrome has a future as a live performance venue.”

She added: “The challenges ahead are considerable however, and we will continue to campaign for its future and support the CIC with its fundraising.”