Theatres though history have often fallen into disrepair, its purpose constantly changing from classical staged productions, to bingo halls and casinos, to cinemas and pubs and even places of worship…But what happens when they are left completely alone? Hulme Hippodrome was built in 1901 as the Grand Junction Theatre and Floral Hall to stage melodramas which were very popular during this period; where plays used music to evoke a certain emotion during a scene or to portray a characters mood or characteristic for the audience.
The days of music and indeed any sound at all have all gone now from the Hippodrome which has fallen into extreme decay…Entering the only open door from many that adorn the outer building, I creeped my way into what first appeared to be a dumping ground, with bags of rubbish and abandoned household goods stacked mile high…chair upon chair, television upon television, a scattering of once loved homewares, sports equipment and a jigsaw…
Usually the caretaker Tony would have been on hand to give a little tour but we were escorted around the haphazard site by one of the UNIT X staff members Lois who guided us through the theatres backstage dressing rooms and up into the stalls. The students and indeed myself, were taken aback by the sheer decay which was all around us as we journeyed through this once much loved building; the vibrant colours of purple, red, green and gold still pushing through the dirt and dust seemed to make the experience more touching, as even their bright shades could not restore its former glory.
The building is now being partly used by a church community in Hulme, which at first I found a welcome piece of news. However it appears they have little interest in restoring the majority of this once dignified building, happy to use the more modern rooms from the bingo days for their worship and leave the rest…to the elements.
As my love and fascination of old buildings is so strong I found it very hard to understand why anyone would just let this happen without a fight. Although the caretaker Tony has tried to protect the interests of the main hall as best he can, there is a long way to go and I fear it could be too late.
The students who attended were a mix of Photography and Interactive Arts groups who decided to visit the Hippodrome as part of their Past & Present project for UNIT X, one group especially wanted to visit as their starting point of getting to know the area of Hulme better.
I would encourage ANYONE and EVERYONE to visit this building. If a little eerie it is an enduring experience which leaves you in a reflective ponder.