Curtains back up at the Hippodrome
Thursday 18th September 2014 @ 18:00 by Max Wieland
Ashton Community News

Tameside Hippodrome is set to be brought back into use for the first time in more than six years.

NEW LEASE OF LIFE: Tameside Hippodrome could be set for a bright new future.

NEW LEASE OF LIFE: Tameside Hippodrome could be set for a bright new future.

The unexpected development comes after Tameside Council Deputy Leader Cllr John Taylor met with the Chair of The Hippodrome Ltd – a not-for-profit company – in order to bring the listed building back into use.

That meeting took place last week with a view to signing a lease next week, once a critical structural survey of the building’s safety has been undertaken.

“I am fully behind this group,” said Cllr Taylor, who decided along with Robin Monk, Executive Director for Economic Growth at Tameside Council, that the best option is to try to re-open the Hippodrome as a live theatre.

“The Hippodrome Ltd are trying to take this building back to what it was, a workable theatre.

“It will be a huge asset to Tameside if they can achieve their aims. I believe they can and I want it to happen imminently.”

Currently owned by Tameside Council, it is thought the theatre still brings with it a running cost of nearly £2,900 a week despite being closed.

But as part of the proposal to re-open the former cinema, the Hippodrome Ltd, which has campaigned to re-open the classic venue ever since its closure, believe the Ashton landmark would provide 16 full-time jobs in addition to 70 part-time jobs.

As part of the lease – which is expected to be signed in a matter of days – there will be no cost to Tameside Council or tax payers.

“It’s an exciting time for everyone, especially for the Hippodrome Ltd as they have wanted this for a long time,” said Cllr Taylor, who has previously voiced his support for the theatre.

“I was very keen to meet with the group’s chair, Keith Dalby-Oldham, and the group’s plans are very convincing.

“The lease will have lots of conditions but we are extremely happy to be singing off the same hymn sheet at long last.

“Not only will there be no cost to the council, but hopefully it will seal the return of the Hippodrome, something that many people have been appealing for, so it is something now that we all have to support.”

SCREEN LEGEND: Chaplin is just one of the famous stars to have appeared at the Hippodrome.

SCREEN LEGEND: Chaplin is just one of the famous stars to have appeared at the Hippodrome.

The council had considered demolishing the building following its closure back in 2008.

But after an application to de-list the Hippodrome back in March last  year, the council has struggled to attract interest in selling or leasing the Oldham Road building to investors.

“These are very promising times for everyone who has battled to get to this point over the past few years,” said Keith.

“The general terms have all been agreed and it is just a question now of dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s.

“We’re ready to move forward and we’re very much looking forward to the future for the community of Tameside.”

The official hand over from Tameside Council to the theatre group could happen by November, with the company already setting in motion their plans, which include opening the former top circle bar and foyer while work in the auditorium is completed.

Built in 1904, Tameside Hippodrome, formerly the Empire Hippodrome, had a blue plaque celebrating its 100 year anniversary in October 2004, unveiled by entertainer Ken Dodd.

Over the years the Hippodrome has attracted many famous names including Charlie Chaplin, the legendary silent movie actor who would later make his name in America and Harry Houdini, who appeared at the theatre with his illusions in 1909.