Saving Brighton Hippodrome

Since its closure in 2007, the fate of the Hippodrome has hung precariously in the balance. With each passing year, this once magnificent seat of entertainment, in the heart of Brighton Old Town, fell into ever steeper decline, becoming a permanent feature on the Theatres’ Trust at risk register to the concern of many local people.


The Hippodrome, after all, was a building designed by Frank Matcham, one of the country’s most renowned theatre architects - the brain behind other top UK venues such as the London Coliseum, the London Palladium, and the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool. And it was in the Hippodrome that Brighton played host to some of the greatest performers of all time - with The Beatles notably playing there on three separate occasions.


Losing such a jewel would represent a loss not only to Brighton and Hove, but to the whole of the UK. That is why I have spent much of the last decade campaigning to stop its deterioration and preserve our city’s special heritage for future generations. I am sure I must have bored each Chief Executive of the Council by adding the future of Hippodrome to the agenda pretty much whenever we met. I explored every option for public funding with the Council and Local Economic Partnership – from standalone schemes for the Hippodrome, to broader regeneration packages for the Old Town region. Nothing gained traction.


I also explored one avenue after another for private financing. I met with, and wrote to, multiple previous owners, whose neglect of the building was occasionally interspersed by statements of bold intent to restore it – promises which would later come to nothing. During this period of stagnation I lobbied for local authority enforcement action to compel absent and invisible owners to undertake the urgent repairs needed to keep the building standing. Yet, the threat of enforcement action is not a motivator for many companies buying properties for speculative purposes, leaving buildings, like the Hippodrome, at risk of continued decline.


After a decade of setbacks, hope for the Hippodrome was running in short supply when local Brighton company, Matsim, stepped up to the plate. I could not have been more excited as they announced their mission to end the neglect, fix the damage and breathe new life back into the Hippodrome as a world-class live performance venue for our thriving arts community.


And the company has wasted no time in getting straight down to work. To date, they have already invested over £5 million in the repairs that were so urgently and desperately needed - fixing the roof, making it watertight and restoring the fabric of the building. Their diligence throughout these repairs has demonstrated to local people just how much Matsim understand and care about the history of this building – as well as its future.


Last July, Matsim began the next phase of their rescue project by submitting a full planning application to the Brighton and Hove Council that would allow them to move forward and complete the remaining work. Matsim have the energy, the drive, the plan - and the all-important finances - to save our Hippodrome. The only thing they don’t have is the Council’s permission.


And while it is common for any large-scale planning application to take some time, the whole process has been moving at a snail’s pace over the past seventeen months. It is hugely frustrating to see their ambitious rescue plans now ground to a halt.   


It is more than time that this vital project is given Brighton and Hove’s full stamp of approval. With no publicly funded options available, Matsim may well be the only knight in shining armour coming to the Hippodrome’s rescue. This is our chance – perhaps the only chance we may find - to save this historic treasure and open its doors to the public once again.  To support planning approval, you can sign a public petition here