Aston Hippodrome Theatre
144 Potter's Lane,
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Firms: James Lea & Sons
Located in the Birmingham inner-city district of Aston, just to the north of the city centre, on Potter’s Lane at the corner with Aston High Street. Part of Thomas Barrasford’s chain of variety theatres, the Aston Hippodrome Theatre was opened on 7th December 1908 with a variety bill, that included as part of the progamme ‘Hipposcope Pictures’. Films continued to be screened as part of the programme through the early years and every Wednesday afternoons when Picture Matinee’s were screened. The theatre was designed by architects James Lister & Co. Seating was provided in stalls, dress circle and balcony levels.
The Aston Hippodrome Theatre was later taken over as an independent variety theatre, so was not on the No 1 circuit of the circuit operated theatres such as Stoll Moss Empire Theatres. On 12th February 1938, it was badly damaged by a fire, and was closed for 6 months. It re-opened with a Art Deco style auditorium. Over the years, many famous stars appeared here, including Wee Georgie Wood, Gracie Fields, George Formby, Sid Fields, Ted Ray, Sandy Powell, Morecambe & Wise & Larry Grayson.
In 1951, Judy Garland made an impromptu appearance when she was at the theatre one night during her stay in Birmingham, appearing at the Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre. She was asked to go on-stage to join the cast of an Irish show who were appearing at the Aston Hippodrome. She gave a solo rendition of ‘Danny Boy’ and joined the troupe for ‘Its a Great Day For the Irish’. Laurel & Hardy appeared for a week in May 1951, on their last British tour. They stayed at the Barton Arms Hotel across the street from the theatre. Pantomimes were staged at Christmas.
The Aston Hippodrome Theatre was closed on 4th June 1960 with the revue show “The A - Z in Striptease” playing for the final week. It was converted into a Mecca Bingo Club, which operated into the 1970’s. The building was demolished in September 1980. The Drum Arts Centre was built on the site, which is the UK’s leading black-led arts centre.
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