...In what used to be the Hippodrome... audiences today raise their voices only to shout 'bingo'. But I can still hear the echoes of Sophie Tucker, Max Miller, Sammy Davis Jr, and all the top-liners that I once reviewed here.
Jack Tinker, All Change For Brighton
Middle Street might seem like just another road up from Brighton seafront, but it's haunted by the ghosts of venues past—from Sticky Mike's Frog Bar, home of gigs and fighting game nights, to religious sites like the Middle Street Synagogue (thankfully preserved and open for visiting). Surely one of the most eidolic of these is the Hippodrome, formerly the largest theatre in Brighton, which occupies a huge swath of the street's east side but is now a slowly-decaying husk awaiting a long-promised rebirth.
The building began its life as an ice rink in 1896, but by 1901 had been converted into a theatre. It was there that Baron Olivier first trod the boards in 1926, that the Beatles performed the only shows they ever played in Brighton, and it played host to such varied performers as Harry Houdini, Laurel and Hardy and, finally, Chuck Berry on the 22nd of November 1964, in the final show there before its conversion into a bingo hall in 1967. It closed nearly 40 years later, in 2006, and ever since has been subject to a steady stream of planning proposals: a music venue; a cinema; and now a mixed-use venue including performance space, restaurants, accommodation and offices.
For a few days this week and last, it was open to the public, both to see the plans that developer Matsim has for the site, and to see some of the grand but decaying interiors in an attempt to induce sympathetic members of the public to lend their voice to the request for planning permission to transform the site. Seagull went along and were able to take some pictures which are presented above. Interested Brightonians may wish to contribute on the developers' request for comment form open on their website.