In our latest guest blog, Hippodrome Heritage Project Manager Jenny Smith talks about the first few months of the new heritage project, ahead of our free Heritage Project Open Day on Saturday 12 September.
“It’s been an exciting few months setting up the Hippodrome Heritage project and starting to uncover stories and discover artefacts from the theatre’s past.
“We have recruited a fantastic team of volunteers who have already been busy cataloguing and digitising our archive collection, interviewing people for their theatre memories and doing research into the theatre’s past.
“I had a really exciting phone call this week from the great grandson of one of the Draysey brothers who built the theatre in 1899 who has lots of theatre memorabilia in his attic, including a silk programme signed by Charlie Chaplin addressed to his grandmother. He used to come to the Hippodrome with his grandmother to see shows and sat in the Draysey box.
“I also had the opportunity to meet Brian Conley when our oral history team interviewed him whilst he was here performing in Barnum. He has now done over 600 performances at the theatre, so had lots to talk about and has a great fondness for our theatre.
“Last Saturday I went on a backstage tour with our volunteer team, where we discovered the original stage door and loading bay entrance on Inge Street, now bricked up, but still visible both backstage and on Inge Street, from when it was first built in 1899. The theatre has had many changes, extensions and refurbishments over the years and it’s really interesting to look at the different layers of the building, reminding us that the core of the building is still the original theatre built in 1899, even though it has such a modern frontage now. We were also entertained on our tour by stories of the many stars that have trod the boards and what life is like working as a technician for such a busy theatre.
“One of the things that keeps coming up through everything we’re doing in the project is how much the theatre means to so many people and it makes me feel very proud that we have such a wonderful theatre in Birmingham with such a rich history. I’m really looking forward to sharing its stories through our project.
“Your first chance to find out more about the theatre’s history is at our Heritage Open Day on Saturday 12th September. The theatre is open 10.00am – 4.00pm and entry is free. There will be tours, talks and family activities running throughout the day.
“If you have any Birmingham Hippodrome memorabilia you would like to donate to our archive or memories of the theatre you’d like to share please come along to our open day or get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0121 689 1085.”
For more information about the Birmingham Hippodrome Hertiage Project please visit our website.