Because of its long history as a place of relaxation – not to mention its connection with generations of distinguished performers both as residents and as visitors – Brighton has a number of entertainment venues. Some of these are conventional, such as the Theatre Royal. Others include conversions and a whole host of pub theatres.
The Hippodrome in Middle Street was built in 1887 as an ice-skating rink. Renowned theatre architect Frank Matcham converted it to a circus – as the name suggests – in 1901 and then into a music-hall the following year. It is a listed building with a Grade II* rating.
More recently it has served as a bingo hall and there are now plans, put forward by Alaska Development, to restore the interior and also make it into an "entertainment hub" which will involve retail outlets, bars and a cinema. A direct link with Dukes Lane and the whole Brighton Lanes complex is intended.
A vigorous campaign has been launched to restore the Hippodrome as a live performance venue and to preserve within that context as much of the original decoration as possible. Among those currently lobbying Brighton & Hove City Council are the principal of the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama Gavin Henderson and Marcus Davey, artistic director of the Roundhouse.
The Frank Matcham Society, which was set up in 1994, is also closely involved in the attempt to preserve as well as restore this important theatre. The society's patrons include Ken Dodd, Prunella Scales and Timothy West.