Hip­po­drome could yet have a fu­ture

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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

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