Darlington Hippodrome first opened its doors on Monday 2 September 1907 as the New Hippodrome & Palace of Varieties under the leadership of Managing Director Signor Rino Pepi, an internationally renowned ‘protean’ or quick change artist. Like Signor Pepi, the theatre itself is no stranger to reinvention, evolving from one man’s vision for a variety theatre in Darlington, to a source of civic pride which draws audiences from far beyond the boundaries of the town. Our much-loved venue has competed against the introduction of rival entertainments such as cinema and television to have become, in 2016, one of the last working Edwardian theatres to have endured into our very different age. Now our beloved theatre transforms once again, as in March 2016 it was announced that the theatre had received a confirmed £4.5m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to transform and regenerate the Grade II Listed building to its former glory.
The grant forms a key part of the ambitious £12.3m project that will deliver a restored Edwardian theatre with 21st century facilities and expanded artistic programme. Darlington Civic Theatre closed at the end of May 2016 to allow work to begin and will reopen in the autumn of 2017 with a new name – Darlington Hippodrome.
The project includes the restoration of the distinctive exterior of the theatre and the beautiful Edwardian auditorium, a modern new entrance and promenade gallery, celebrating its heritage, the creation of a stunning vaulted function room in the former water tower, as well as improved seating with more leg room and disabled access - including two lifts - providing access to all levels both front and back of house.
There will also be an increase in seats to 1000, which together with improved back stage facilities for touring companies will enable larger shows to be accommodated. A new education centre and improved public spaces will support a vibrant new range of daytime learning and engagement activities.
To find out more about Darlington Hippodrome - including what's on - visit www.darlingtonhippodrome.co.uk.