Hippodrome could yet have a future
IN its heyday Hulme Hippodrome played host to The Beatles, Laurel and Hardy and Nina Simone.
Stars from across the globe visited the ornate Edwardian music hall to play sold out shows to enthusiastic audiences.
Performers at the venue, which opened in October 1901, ranged from rock ‘n’ roll singer Joe Brown to cabaret stars in the racy Folies Bergere revue – a show which caused such a stir in 1949 that organisers were forced to cover up an advertising poster because police said it was distracting passing motorists.
Legend has it the Hippodrome even had tunnels which led from the theatre to the nearby Junction Pub and into the city centre for performers to use. In the 1950s it was remodelled as a theatre with seating for an audience of 3,000.
But numbers began to dwindle and it became clear the glory days were over.
The once grand theatre, off Old Birley Street, began a slow decline when it was turned into a bingo hall during the 1970s. It eventually fell into disrepair and closed for good in 1986.
Though it would require millions to bring the Hippodrome back into use, its gilded decorations and red velvet seats have withstood the test of time.
And closure to the public did not mark the end of the road.
In fact, a new owner brought the remarkable theatre back into the limelight, for very different reasons.
Controversial preacher Gilbert Deya, a man who reportedly claimed he could help infertile couples have ‘miracle babies’, has been linked to the Hippodrome for almost two decades.
The Gilbert Deya Ministries bought the building in 1999 and held church services in the foyer for years.
Last year Mr Deya visited Hulme for ‘Seven days of unusual miracles’.
The preacher, who has battled extradition for over a decade, was sent back to Kenya in July to face accusations he stole children as proof of miracles.
He denies the charges against him.
With the Hippodrome still in possession of the church, its future seems uncertain.
But its association with music continued well into the 21st Century thanks to local band Bingo Jesus.
The psychedelic garage rockers took their name from a ‘Jesus’ sign on the front of the Hippodrome building which had been placed directly next to the old ‘Bingo’ sign.
In 2011 local charity Youth Village announced plans to restore the huge Grade-II listed building into an arts centre and hub for community groups across Manchester
easing the building from Deya Ministries for a peppercorn rent, the notfor-profit group eventually abandoned hopes of a restoration when it was discovered repair works could cost up to £20m.
Earlier this year the Hippodrome was boarded up and deemed unsafe by Manchester City Council, with bosses advising the owners of their responsibility to maintain the building appropriately. But that has not stopped an artists’ collective from moving in to occupy the huge space.
The group, who say the building has been left to ‘fall apart’, have cordoned off the main theatre to protect it from further damage.
It remains to be seen whether this will mark the beginning of a happy new chapter in the strange history of the Hippodrome.
Hulme Hippodrome in 1949