The new owners of the Hippodrome have invited stakeholders to a virtual meeting to discuss the derelict theatre’s future.
Members of the Brighton Hippodrome CIC, which has been campaigning for years for a crack at restoring the venue, will be attending, alongside representatives of various bodies.
The Victorian Society, which included the Hippodrome in its 2020 endangered buildings list, has also been invited.
Andy Matsim, director of Matsim Properties which bought the Middle Street theatre last month, said: “We feel it is essential to hear the views of all the interested parties and to that end have arranged a Zoom meeting on 27 October.
“We feel this building is important to the city of Brighton and Hove and we want to bring forward, as soon as possible, a viable scheme to both bring it back into use whilst making it available to all of the citizens of the city in some way.”
An urgent works notice was issued last month on the Grade II* listed building, which requires Matsim to make specific repairs.
Howevever, councillors were told work was already underway before they met to approve the notice.
'The Victorians presented entertainment in entertaining buildings. It's got a huge ceiling in the form of a panelled tent, and now it's lying empty.' Griff Rhys Jones discusses one of our Top 10 Endangered buildings – Brighton Hippodrome. Read more: https://t.co/QwDONLjN8m pic.twitter.com/E1t2BoEoKt
— The Victorian Society (@thevicsoc) October 9, 2020
In a video released last week, Victorian Society president Griff Rhys Jones said: “Originally built as an ice rink, the Hippodrome was converted into a circus theatre by Frank Matcham in 1901 and so we’re saying without a doubt one of the great Victorian ideals, which is to present entertainment in entertaining buildings.
“It’s got a huge ceiling in the form of a panelled tent and now it’s lying forlorn and empty and looking for a new purpose. It’s Grade II* listed.
“There are Hippodrome investors, apparently, who have the keys to this place but we have to watch out that what they want to do with it doesn’t destroy an extraordinary remnant of what is a very important part of our history. Entertainment for ordinary working people.
“It’s something that I have to say a lot of theatre is unparalleled. The Victorians knew how to design theatres, and Frank Matcham in particular, that made an instant rapport between their audience and the entertainment and this is a prime example.”
David Fisher, one of the directors of the Brighton Hippodrome CIC, said: “We are glad the city council approved an urgent works notice and that Matsim is getting on with the repairs anyway. Both these should have happened several years ago.
“The long period of neglect by previous owners has been shameful and has only served to increase the cost of restoration putting the building at even greater risk.
“The Hippodrome has already been number one on the Theatres Trust register of Theatres at Risk. The Victorian Society’s citation refers to ‘a viable and sympathetic new use’. We have a viable and sympathetic OLD use: restore it as a the theatre it still is when the bingo additions are stripped away.
“We believe, of course, that the Hippodrome should be restored as a large-scale (lyric) theatre, capable of receiving major touring shows, many of which cannot come to the city for lack of a suitably-sized venue, as well as developing into a producing house in its own right.
“The community has been very supportive of this idea and recognises the exciting possibilities if this were to happen.
“The local visitor economy and cultural scene would benefit substantially.
“We have spent five years developing fully worked and costed plans to bring this about.
“We will be meeting the new owners later in the month. We hope to be able to persuade Matsim—importantly a local company—that this is the way forward for the Hippodrome and the city.”