TAMESIDE Hippodrome has been the beneficiary of a much-needed grant that has raised hopes it may one day open its doors once again.
The theatre, on Oldham Road in Ashton-under-Lyne, has been closed for 15 years.
But an award of £5,000 from the Theatres Trust has rejuvenated the ambitions of those who want to see the Grade II listed building bustling once more.
The organisation clarified the award, from its Resilient Theatres: Resilient Communities programme, is purely for governance support.
It has been handed to Ashton Empire Hippodrome (Building) Ltd, a campaign group that has been trying to save or restore it, so it is in a better position to take the project forward.
Described as ‘a rare theatre survival, illustrating the interwar fashion of adaption to cinema, and retaining a wealth of Art Deco features from its 1930s re-fit,’ Tameside Council is the current owner of the Hippodrome and it has been on the Theatres at Risk Register since 2009.
A threat of demolition in 2009 was halted when the building was listed but a conditions survey was last completed in 2014 which showed considerable repair works are required.
There are ongoing concerns about its deterioration, particularly the roof, and in October 2020, Tameside Council added the Hippodrome to its list of assets for disposal.
Conditions stipulate acquisition proposals require a level of social and financial sustainability.
The Theatres Trust said: “While this could help provide a route for asset transfer to community ownership and onward to restoration and live performance use, the potentially wide scope of the conditions cast additional uncertainty around the building’s future.
“The Hippodrome is well placed in the town, in an area proposed for regeneration. The theatre is well equipped and could be reopened.”
Ashton Empire Hippodrome Building, based in the Marple Bridge area of Stockport, was set up in 2020 by a group campaigning for the building with the ambition to upgrade and refurbish the theatre to its former glory.
The company’s goal is to take the acquisition of the building, carry out the necessary works to restore the theatre, and be responsible for the maintenance of the building fabric.
The Architectural Heritage Fund is also interested in the building and Theatres Trust has had a number of conversations about how both organisations can work together to support the group.
Further work is required to update the 2014 condition survey before a Community Asset Transfer process can begin and Theatres Trust say the council now needs to find funding for this piece of work.
But it added: “In the meantime, Theatres Trust is working closely with the campaign group, developing plans to widen the board membership and strengthening governance to ensure the group can meet eligibility criteria for a Community Asset Transfer, once the council can proceed, and exploring potential funding to support the development of a business case.
“Theatres Trust will continue to provide advice and support to see this important theatre reopened for its local community.
“Ashton Empire Hippodrome (Building) Ltd will receive support with governance so the group has the most beneficial structure and the skills required to take forward the project.”