Birmingham Hippodrome archives and how you can help.

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Caroline and her favourite show programme from May 8 1939 - published just before the outbreak of war.

Caroline Davis, Birmingham Hippodrome’s Strategic Projects Manager, writes about archiving the theatre’s long and eventful history…

Did you know that we started life as a circus in 1899?   We’ve certainly come a long way since then! We’re  currently  organising our archives, cataloguing the theatre’s long history of entertainment – it’s an exciting project that has thrown up some really interesting finds. Although we are a receiving theatre, meaning productions visit us already developed and produced elsewhere, we have a variety of interesting theatrical memorabilia including programmes, posters, photos and artwork dating back as far as the early 20th Century.   The majority of our material is from the 1980’s onwards, following the theatre’s renovation. Birmingham Central Library collection also houses some fabulous bill posters and programmes from the very early days which has helped us a great deal in collating  parts of our past.

The oldest show programme in the collection, dating back to 1926.

Variety has always been a key part of  Birmingham Hippodrome’s programming and, as we start cataloguing all of the pieces we hold,  it is clear to see what a colourful history the Birmingham Hippodrome has had. One of my favourite things about the project is seeing how the styling of programmes has changed over the decades, studying the rise in the cost of programmes and productions advertised, reflecting the social life that developed around the theatre.  One of the earliest programmes we have is from August 1926, when we were doing our twice nightly performances; boxes then cost 12/6! Some of the programme covers from the 50’s are also my personal favourites, the artwork is beautiful and they used to cost threepence!

Deep in the archives...

Another interesting development has been the acquisition of some old archive footage – particularly from ATV (now Central ITV News). The Midland Archive for Central England  has helped us in digitialising the clips that they held in storage in Leicester, allowing us to tell some more of the history of the building through old video footage that we will be using as part of our education programme.  It’s fantastic to see how the building has changed along with the programme over the decades.

Eventually, the BIG plan is to possibly digitalise our records so that they are able to be viewed by our patrons – although there is still a big way to go at this moment in time!

Look out for more information as this project develops.   In the meantime we are particularly searching for posters and programmes from the 1970s or before that.     If you have any information or wish to donate old programmes please get in touch with or mark for the attention of Caroline Davis, Strategic Projects Manager, Birmingham Hippodrome, carolinedavis@birminghamhippodrome.com, 0121 689 3044. We have had some wonderful donations from some of our long standing patrons already and we are very grateful for their generosity.

 
We look forward to keeping you up to date as this develops and, in time, collecting some of the wonderful memories that I am sure many of you have of the theatre over the years! 
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4 comments on “Birmingham Hippodrome archives and how you can help.

  1. Sue Lawlor says:

    This may not be the forum to help me, but I have been trying to find information about a
    Gala Night organised by Birmingham Hippodrome for the victims of the Birmingham Pub Bombings. This would probably be in early 1975. I have googled all references to old shows with no success. An elderly friend who was working at The Hippodrome at this time would really love to be reminded of the cast list of this charity show, which she thinks included cast members of that year’s panto. If you are unable to help but can suggest another route to unearth this information I would be extremely grateful .

    • Hi Sue. We’ve spoken to our archive team who have looked through the programmes we have for 1975 and they can’t see anything about the gala night. We are currently working on our archive and new materials are coming in all of the time, so we will keep an eye out for you and if anything comes up that can shed more light on the gala we will let you know.

  2. Sue Lawlor says:

    Thanks very much for your help. It would mean a lot to my friend if you were able to come up with any information.

  3. Sue Lawlor says:

    Hi Caroline. I passed your comments on to my friend. She wondered if possibly the gala concert may have been in late 1974. The pub bombings were in November 1974 which is why she thought the gala would not have happened until early 1975. Larry
    Grayson was in panto as Alladin in 1974/75. Audrey has worked with him and said he would most certainly have given his time for that event. Also she said it would almost certainly have been held on a Sunday. Audrey has so many programmes from the era but doesn’t have anything on this event. Don’t know if this extra info is of any help.

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