Archives and preservation matters free online event is worth joining

During Explore Your Archive Week, on Wednesday 24 November, you’re invited to join the ABTT and the University of Bristol Theatre Archive as they host a discussion about how to care for Theatre and Live Art records, which will be useful for anyone with archival, library or record-keeping duties of any kind.

Paul Roberts, member of the ABTT’s Historical Research Committee and members of the University of Bristol Theatre Collection will all speak about how to look after your records.

Starting at 2.30pm, the free online event will cover how to preserve paper-based & audiovisual documentation as well as conversing about the Records at Risk project.

The main session will be followed by time for a Q&A session, and is scheduled to finish by 4.00pm

You can book your free place here


Why Do Historic Places Matter? – a fascinating online exploration

Following on from the September publication of the report Why Do Historic Places Matter?, covered on this blog here, on Wednesday November 24th at 6.00pm UK time, SAVE Britain’s Heritage presents an online event exploring this report and its relevance to protecting heritage projects up and down the country.

The threats to so many historic buildings are intensifying in the rush to build new housing by soulless builders who are solely driven by money. Governed by unbridled greed that sees land irrespective of what stands upon it, encouraged by a government that sees the cost of everything and the value of nothing, their laser-vision is focused on knocking anything down, irrespective of the care, skill, craftsmanship, beauty or social relevance the building has, consuming all in its path and excreting bland, miserable Lego blocks in their wake.

They are focused purely on knocking things down and erecting impoverished replacements – in terms of design, space, planning, ambiance and social fabric. To make a musical analogy, its like slaughtering Luciano Pavarotti and replacing him with a Karaoke machine. These leeches do not only demolish buildings, they demolish something much more important – civic and community pride.

Historic urban places matter economically, environmentally and socially. But more than that, they matter emotionally. But why? Join SAVE Britain’s Heritage and Rebecca Madgin, Professor of Urban Studies at the University of Glasgow, to discuss her recently published report considering why people develop emotional attachments to the heritage of towns and cities, and why urban historic places matter. 

Tickets are complimentary for SAVE’s Saviours / £3 for Friends / £5 for Members of the Public.

Book your tickets here


Hulme Hippodrome celebrates 120th anniversary! plus Update

On October 7th, Manchester’s critically at-risk Hulme Hippodrome celebrated its 120th anniversary with images of its illustrious history are projected onto the building itself, shown to an invited audience of local people. It certainly looks like like everyone had a good time, as well as raising the profile of the beleaguered Hippodrome.

All this and cake too! Who could resist! Happy Birthday to the Hippo and best wishes to all those fighting to save it from greedy developers.

Here’s a couple of photos from the celebration, courtesy of the campaign organisers’ Twitter feed

UPDATE: on 12th October the Campaign Tweeted this – Save Hulme Hippodrome has received legal advice that building is owned by HHM20 Ltd. “We’ve reached out to the owner on numerous occasions & had no response, we’re sending call out to the owner to speak to us & work on a solution now that it can’t be sold for redevelopment.”

“We’re doubling our energy. We are even more determined to succeed. Our intention now is to put as much pressure as we can on the owner and the regulators to get the building back for Hulme and Manchester. It will not survive another winter.”


Online discussion – Preserving Performance: Collecting at the Harry Ransom Center

A note for your diary today! Here’s an interesting discussion with Dr Eric Colleary, Cline Curator of Theatre & Performing Arts titled Preserving Performance: Collecting at the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas in Austin. Texas. It’s another great free online event courtesy of the Friends University of Bristol Collection and runs today, 30 September, from 5.30pm to 6.45pm BST.

The Center holds one of the largest collections of American, British, and Irish playwright archives including the papers of David Hare, Lillian Hellman, Adrienne Kennedy, Terrence McNally, Arthur Miller, John Osborne, J. B. Priestley, Elmer Rice, Tom Stoppard, and Tennessee Williams, along with significant collections of writers like Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw, Sam Shepard, and Oscar Wilde. Visitors to the Reading and Viewing Room can access over 1,100 audio and video recordings of Stella Adler’s master classes on acting and script interpretation, John Wilkes Booth’s promptbook for Richard III, Harry Houdini’s love letters to his wife Bess, and epic scene designs by artists like Boris Aronson, Norman Bel Geddes, Gordon Conway, and Eldon Elder.

There will be time for questions also.

You can register here


Theatres Trust’s Theatres at Risk presentation highlights concerns and causes for optimism

On Tuesday 20th July at 4.00pm, Claire Appleby, Architectural Advisor at Theatres Trust presented a hugely engaging and exhaustive (but not exhausting) overview of Theatres at Risk in the UK, highlighting successes and losses and pointing up where there is hope of revival. Claire’s passion, knowledge, focus and love of her subject helped her audience enjoy the event in ways that many other presenters could not have achieved.

The Theatres Trust was established 60 years ago, as a response to the loss of over 800 theatres across the UK in the years prior to its establishment, and during its lifetime has put its authoritative weight behind many community and arts groups in saving theatres from the wrecker’s ball.

It is worth remembering that the Theatres Trust’s involvement in supporting retention, revival and reuse has contributed to 80 out of 177 theatres being open for performance or other use since the Theatres at Risk Register started fifteen years ago.

Claire talked us through the 31 theatres which are on the 2021 Theatres at Risk Register, an annual event which aims to publicise our irreplaceable theatre heritage. The list has at its core a number of theatres which are unused, hastening decline through decay- frustratingly, many have been on this annual list every year since its inception in 2006. But one of the great benefits of the list is that it sparks public attention and concern- and in some cases, spurs further efforts to retain them.

Claire described the way the list was created, with theatres being given a 1-3 (3 being the highest) score in each of three categories – Community Value (the theatre must have the potential to be returned to theatre use and have potential to benefit its locality), Star Rating (listed status which recognises great architecture or otherwise significant buildings) and Risk Factor (whether the building has operational issues, is vacant, deteriorating, vulnerable to redevelopment) .

Brighton Hippodrome, currently on the Theatres Trust’s Theatres at Risk 2021 list

The really valuable thing about a theatre’s score from this assessment therefore highlights the theatres most at risk, of most architectural value and with the most potential to be returned to theatre use. So, actually, its a really positive and forward-thinking way to identify an at risk building which gives it a better chance to be successfully brought back into use.

Further to this, in 2019 the Trust set up the Theatres at Risk Capacity Fund which is supported by a small number of organisations who provide funding sums. These are allocated as small-scale grants to theatres at the initial stages of their rehabilitation journey. These funds help groups pay for the very early-stages work which is almost impossible to fund elsewhere these days- things like exploratory work, business advice, planning advice, consultancy, viability studies, etc. In its three years of operation, the fund has benefitted 15 theatres at risk with funds totalling £203,000.

Claire’s 100-minute marathon was certainly a tale of highs and lows, with several theatres on the brink of making strides forward, including the vandalised-by-bulldozer Derby Hippodrome which currently exists without a roof, . On the other end of the scale, several venues were teetering on the edge of demolition, which is most regrettable, the worst loss of which is the fabulous 1500-seat Dudley Hippodrome, which the Council has received £25million from central funds to demolish it and build a college. This effectively leaves the town without a fit-for purpose theatre space, the old Town Hall which is sometimes used for events has no raked seating and draws endless complaints from customers. While its still standing, we can hope. Similarly, The Intimate Theatre in Palmers Green, London has been slated for demolition, although the decision has recently been recalled so there is a glimmer of hope there.

The one addition to the 2021 list was the CoOp Hall in Ramsbottom, which is an 1870s music hall unused since 1944. A recent rediscovery in remarkably good condition, it was originally slated for housing redevelopment, but thankfully all concerned move quickly, Remains . Bury council took swift action to protect the building, Theatres Trust applied for listed status, and much more work has been done to secure the building’s survival, including the local preservation group having just been allotted an award from the Architectural Heritage Fund

2020-21 has obviously been a particularly difficult year for all venues, especially disused buildings of all types, and therefore the work of the Trust’s Theatres at Risk program has become even more important.

The art of reviving a theatre- and it is most definitely an art- involves establishing, nurturing and funding a complex network of relationships between owners, landlords, leaseholders, developers, community groups, councils, arts organisations, potential grant aiders and potential supporters. The Trust’s skill, perseverance and diligence in its work in this area is not to be underestimated!

What the Theatres Trust has demonstrated is that by using their status and authority in considered and constructive ways, together with targeted grants from supportive funders they can immeasurably help those “on the ground” with the spirt and will but little experience tap into the support that they need to be able to create compelling applications for planning, listing and funding, and by opening doors to experience through early seed funding, they are actively contributing to reviving as many of our irreplaceable theatres as possible, and for that they deserve our praise and gratitude.