Dudley Hippodrome is set to be demolished by Dudley Council in order to make way for a new medical campus for Worcester University.
However, this week, the Hippodrome – whose last performer was Roy Orbison in 1974 – has been added to the SAVE Britain’s Heritage buildings-at-risk list, sparking a renewed sense of hope for a local group fighting to keep it as an entertainment venue.
Campaigners believe its addition to the new 67 buildings at-risk list will help the theatre gain some much-needed attention in a bid to save it.
The Dudley Hippodrome Friends and Community Group believe their fight “is not over” despite planning permission being approved in 2021 to transform the building into a campus for students, while the local authority was given £25m towards the rebuild.
Reacting to news that the Hippodrome – which last opened as a bingo hall in 2009 – could be saved, Black Country comedienne Marlene Watson said: “As a Black Country wench I’m thrilled to bits to hear it! It’s about time somebody did show an interest in it, a proper interest.”
Liz Fuller, from SAVE, added: “We hope it will get more attention, maybe people will have another think about how they value it and how important it is.”
Last month, work began to secure the site off Castle Hill with fencing erected and 24-hour security added ahead of the planned demolition, which is yet to commence.
Coun Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, said: “Our contractors have been busy with asbestos removal and will soon be busy with the final preparation work which will allow us to meet all planning conditions.”
In its heyday, Dudley Hippodrome played host to stars including Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Shirley Bassey, Tommy Cooper, Bob Hope and Morecambe and Wise amongst others. It later became a nightclub and wrestling venue, Caesar’s Palace, before being used as a bingo hall. It eventually closed its doors in September 2009 and has been derelict ever since.