Theatregoers recall the best of Birmingham Hippodrome…

Following the recent appeals in our programmes and Friends’ brochures, Caroline Davis – Strategic Projects Manager, reports back on the donations that she has received from loyal patrons over the past few months…

Caroline Davis working hard on archiving...

Caroline Davis working hard on archiving...

Through my work with building the Birmingham Hippodrome archives cataloguing everything the theatre owns, starting with programmes and moving on to posters, flyers and old production photos, I have met several wonderfully interesting patrons who have been visiting the theatre throughout their life. It is great to meet with people who hold the theatre so close to their hearts and I love to hear some of the stories – a couple of which I wanted to share with you here.

Recently I met with Ivan Heard, 67, now living in Bromsgrove. Ivan started coming to theatre in 1953 and continues to this day – that is nearly six decades of supporting the Hippodrome and seeing how both the building and the types of show we present have changed. Ivan and his then girlfriend (but soon to be wife!) regularly came to see the variety acts and also the Christmas pantomimes; he remembers the variety acts with fond memories – some of them better than others! Ivan also donated some extra programmes of pantomimes that he has seen to add to our recently refreshed exhibition in the level one stalls (take a look the next time you are here).

Ivan said “My first visit to the Hippodrome was in March, 1953 to see “Educating Archie”, a stage version of the radio programme, which included Tony Hancock. I saw The Springfields, with Dusty Springfield when she was still part of a group, in the Benny Hill Show. I remember Bruce Forsyth’s one- man show- an incredible performance with a big band for nearly three hours. Equally as impressive was a one- woman show with Victoria Wood  and, of course, the many hilarious nights with Ken Dodd, his act getting longer the older he has got!

A selection of recent donations and letters...

A selection of recent donations and letters...

Another memorable night was the first visit in 1964 of “My Fair Lady”- a six month season that helped to change the fortunes of the Hippodrome. It is easy now to forget how close the theatre came to closing. I remember the all-action performance of Norman Wisdom in the 1962/63 pantomime, one of the rare presentations of “Robinson Crusoe”. It will be interesting to see how Brian Conley does next Christmas in this pantomime, if he repeats his tremendously hard-working performance of this year, it will be another great time at the Hippodrome.

 More recently, the big musicals have been stunning, my all-time favourite being the unforgettable “Les Miserables”- I cry every time! And I loved “Mary Poppins”… After 60 years, I still enter the Hippodrome with a sense of excitement and anticipation that I will be entertained with a top quality show. The “Old Lady of Hurst Street” gets better and better with age!”

As with Ivan, I would also like to give a special thanks to Derek Shipman who made a large donation of programmes to the theatre last summer (I took these home with me and they were spread out over my living room floor for several days afterwards as I tried to sort through them!). Derek is a big musicals man and thinks that he has seen the various productions of ‘Joseph’ over 130 times throughout his lifetime!!

My thanks also to David Straughn who used to perform with the Welsh National Opera orchestra and donated several WNO programmes we were missing, Denise Barton a regular visitor from Sutton Coldfield with a donation of programmes from the 1950s and also some of the anonymous donors who have been kind enough to drop things off into the theatre – please keep them coming so we can keep a record of everything and everyone that has performed on our great stage!

Follow Caroline on Twitter – @23Caroline23

If anyone is interested in booking Caroline for a ‘History of the Hippodrome’ talk please get in touch with her on 0121 689 3044. Talks usually last 1½ -2 hours with a minimum donation to the Birmingham Hippodrome Stage Appeal of £30.

For more information on the Stage Appeal, and how you can play your part CLICK HERE.

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