Tragic events in Birmingham remembered by Hippodrome visitor as part of our Heritage Project

Following the sad scenes we have all seen unfolding in Paris this week, one of our own Heritage Volunteers Ivan Heard has unearthed a story from Birmingham’s own sad chapter of history.

Birmingham Hippodrome Heritage Project Volunteer Ivan Heard

Birmingham Hippodrome Heritage Project Volunteer Ivan Heard

“Today (Sat 21 Nov) will be the 41st Anniversary of the Birmingham Pub Bombings on 21 November, 1974.

“In that dark and tragic episode in Birmingham’s history, 21 people were killed and 182 were seriously injured in two pubs – The Mulberry Bush at the Rotunda and The Tavern In The Town in New Street. The bombs exploded within minutes of each other around 8.20pm.

“That week here at Birmingham Hippodrome, the London Festival Ballet were performing on stage and on that very evening they were dancing Swan Lake.

“On 12 November, I interviewed Christine Powell who was sitting in the stalls in the theatre, watching what became her favourite ballet. Even inside the Hippodrome, the audience could hear what Christine described as two dull thuds. She turned to her boyfriend and said she thought it was bombs. At the time, the country was in the middle of an IRA bombing campaign.

“After a few minutes, the ballet was stopped and somebody came on stage to report “an incident in the  City Centre” and that the theatre would need to be evacuated. Within a short time, the theatre was calmly emptied and the audience dispersed their separate ways. Christine was particularly struck by what she described as ” a blood red sky over the City Centre”.

“Only later did the full enormity of the horror become apparent and Christine told me she still remembers those two things – the dull thud sound and the colour of the sky. For a while, there were spates of bomb threats and warnings and the Hippodrome’s shows could sometimes be interrupted or delayed by these events. The general atmosphere in the City Centre also for a time deterred some people from coming in to town and inevitably this affected the theatre’s audiences.

“However, as in the years of WW2, ‘the show must go on’ and the Hippodrome played its part in raising people’s spirits and giving them an escape from the outside world for a couple of hours.”

This story shows the importance of our Heritage Project, as our archives can bring together an eye witness oral account of a historic local event and link it to what was being performed here at the time. If you have any stories about Birmingham Hippodrome that you would like to share with us, or if you would like to find out more about our Heritage Project then please visit our website.

The Hippodrome Heritage Project is part of this years Big Give Christmas Challenge. Find out more about how you can help and have your donation doubled here. Every penny counts as we try to secure the history of our theatre so we can pass this to future generations. 


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