It’s the third Music Hall and Variety Day!

Today is the third Music Hall and Variety Day, where the British Music Hall Society invites people around the UK and beyond to celebrate by posting on social media photographs, postcards, bill posters, programmes, costumes, stories, memories about music hall, the buildings, performers, songs and shows that you may recall or have a link with. And don’t forget the hashtags so others can find your contributions!

For my contribution, below you can enjoy Michael Grade’s excellent History of Music Hall from 2011


Hulme Hippodrome Campaign Group starts monthly meetings

Two welcome pieces of new from the Hulme Hippodrome , currently very much at risk through opaque ownership tangles and owners indifference. The campaigning group is string a series of meetings, held on the second Monday in each month, starting with this coming Monday May 9th at 6.30pm. Supporters, interested parties and other visitors are welcome to meet outside the Hippodrome to hear latest news about the campaign to bring the venue back into public use, and to find out how they can contribute.

Also, a university research student has been working with the Hippodrome team to identify and compile shows and performers that have appeared at the Hippodrome during its 120-year history. They hope that the results of this research project will be available soon. More news on this as it becomes available.


Historic buildings given new life as creative centres

Capital Project – The Civic

The Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) is the UK’s leading social investor and helps communities find enterprising new uses for the old buildings they love.

In March, AHF announced new Transformational Project Grants, including three to support projects by leading arts organisations in England. The awards, which form part of AHF’s Transforming Places through Heritage programme, are funded by a £15 million grant from the UK Government through the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport. This will help to conserve and adapt unique historic buildings for new uses by community-led charities and social enterprises.

These awards were approved as part of funding for 15 projects across the UK, with funding offers totalling £1,615,100. You can find a full list of the projects supported here. The three arts projects awarded capital funding are detailed below.

The Ice House in Great Yarmouth is located on the riverside, a 19th-century prominent survivor of the herring fishing industry that once dominated the town. Out There Arts, an independent arts development charity, currently use the site to store festival equipment. With the support of a £350,000 grant, however, work can now begin to transform the Grade II-listed thatched Ice House into a National Centre for Arts and Circus, with facilities for circus training and teaching.

Exterior of the Ice House in Great Yarmouth, courtesy of Out There Arts.

Alice Billings House in Stratford, East London was built in 1905-6 to provide accommodation for firemen of the West Ham Fire Brigade. The site consists of two three-storey buildings, an adjoining shed built to house horse-drawn fire engines, and a central external courtyard. Project lead Creative Land Trust was established by the Mayor of London, Arts Council England, and Bloomberg Philanthropies to provide affordable workspace for the creative sector across London. They have been awarded a grant of £116,880 to support their project to convert Alice Billings House into 26 studios, which will be let at affordable rents to around 80 artists and makers. In addition, a gallery and exhibition space, community café, and public courtyard will be created. The AHF grant will contribute towards structural repairs to the listed north block building.

Artist’s impression of the north block of Alice Billings House in Stratford, credit to Purcell.

The Trinity Centre in Gateshead is a Victorian building, originally constructed as an extension of the adjoined Grade I-listed 13th-century chapel. By 1969, however, the extension was no longer needed, and that portion of the building was deconsecrated. Today, it is home to Gateway Studio, a dance and related arts charity. Due to the poor condition of the building, however, the organisation can currently only offer a limited programme of activities. An AHF grant of £250,000 will fund a series of repairs to the Trinity Centre. Once restored, the building will provide new and improved facilities for dance, related arts, and community engagement activities, including a community café, performance space, and rentable office space.

Gateway Studio dance class at the Trinity Centre, Gateshead, courtesy of Gateway Studio

Matthew Mckeague, Chief Executive Officer of the AHF, said:

“Historic buildings so often provide the unique DNA of places, and it’s not surprising that so many arts organisations are inspired by their architectural interest and drawn to the open, flexible spaces they can provide – and also to spaces on high streets and within town centres that help put these organisations at the centre of their communities. It is fantastic to see the imaginative and creative reuse projects we have been able to fund through the latest round of Transformational grants, as well as the other awards made to projects across the UK.”

Two more capital grants were also awarded through the Transforming Places through Heritage programme:

Heritage Lincolnshire, The Harlequin, Lincoln – £350,000

intoBodmin CIC, The Old Library, Bodmin – £150,000

To explore full listings of grant offers, please click here


Birmingham Old Rep offers theatre tours

Birmingham Old Rep have just announced building tour dates for August and September. And as they’re selling out fast, they’ve had to add some more- so don’t be slow if you want to catch one!

Here’s your chance to step in the shoes of the Rep’s legendary founder Sir Barry Jackson as they re-open their doors to reveal a fascinating and star-studded theatre history of inspiration, determination and community engagement.

For more information or to book visit http://oldreptheatre.co.uk/venue-tours


Nottingham theatrical collaboration enriches tour audiences’ experience

Emily Connell, Ade Andrews (tour guide) and Maddy Clark

In Nottingham, the Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall team cleverly used the lengthy break in backstage tours due to Covid-19, along with National Lottery Heritage Funding, by reassessing, updating and bringing a fascinating new dimension to the venue’s popular backstage tours via a bespoke costume commission.

Two costume design students from Nottingham Trent University (NTU), Maddy Clark and Emily Connell, were commissioned to produce a unique new costume for tour guide Ade Andrews, inspired by materials found in the venue’s extensive archive Heritage Archive at Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall Nottingham.

Maddy Clark, a second year BA (Hons) Costume Design and Construction student at NTU, said: “The design of the waistcoat is based on wallpaper patterns from the original plans for the building, and I also used original designs for the pillars, stone and marblework. The design for the scarves is taken from a huge variety of postcards featuring actors and lots of interesting characters and faces from the archive. It was really fun to consider all the theatrical needs of the costume.”

Emily Connell, in her final year studying BA (Hons) Costume Design and Construction at NTU, said: “The best part of this project has been the freedom to have fun and look into the archive. The waistcoat fabric matches the venue perfectly. It’s really cool to see our work up on stage.”

Ade Andrews, who leads the Limelight Backstage Tour in character as storyteller Ezekial Bone, said: “It’s a joy doing the Limelight Backstage Tour, but I haven’t done it for a couple of years so being here again, in the costume, is really bringing it back to me. Before, the costume I wore was some bits and bobs I had of my own to conjure up the character, but now I have the definitive costume it’s going to really help breathe life into the whole thing again.”

Character-led Limelight Backstage Tours of the Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall recommence from April 23rd. See the attached link for more details. Limelight Backstage Tours