Golders Green Hippodrome
Golders Green Hippodrome was built in 1913 by Bertie Crewe as a 3000-seat Music Hall, to serve North London and the new tube rail expansion into Golders Green. Its capacity was reduced by half on the introduction of a stage, but it then became a famous pre/post West End venue for many travelling shows. Taken over by the BBC in the 1960s as a television studio, it has been put to more recent use as a radio studio and multi-purpose concert venue. In 2003, the BBC left the Grade II listed building vacant and deteriorating, although it has now been bought by El Shaddai International Christian Centre, an evangelical church.

The Grade II listed, 1913 Hippodrome Theatre building next to Golders Green tube station was built as a 3000 seat music hall by Bertie Crewe, and opened on Boxing Day. Its capacity was reduced by half with the construction of a full theatre stage, and it became famous for its pre and post London tours, and has been used as a receiving venue for West End transfers - Laurence Olivier, Marlene Dietrich, Stephane Grappelli, Arthur Askey, Django Reinhardt and Chico Marx played there. Donald Swann's Wild Thyme played in 1955, and its regular performances included an annual pantomime and the Gang Show Touring opera was popular still at the time, and performances included pre-war with the British National Opera Company and post-War in 1952 with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company and a filmed production of The Mikado in 1966. In 1961, the theatre appeared in an early British sexploitation film called Naked As Nature Intended directed by Harrison Marks. The nudist film, which starred Pamela Green, was a box office success.

In 1969, the BBC were looking for additional television studio capacity to cope with the introduction of colour transmissions They took out a long leasehold on the Hippodrome to 2060 In 1969 the Hippodrome was converted into a radio studio and concert hall with reduced capacity of 700 seats, as the BBC had been looking for a north London venue, and became home for the BBC Concert Orchestra. As a concert venue, it was used in various configurations for:
  • Light Music Concerts - including Maria Friedman
  • Rock bands - the first were Queen in 1973, Jethro Tull in 1977 and many that followed were for the John Peel show including AC/DC, ELO, Barclay James Harvest, The Kinks, UFO, Procol Harum, Roxy Music and Stiff Little Fingers
  • Theatre - including an early performance by Sir Ian McKellen in a performance of James Saunders play A Scent of Flowers, which became his first Westend performance and his first Award
  • Boxing - as both a regional and national venue
  • Comedy - including performances before he won New Faces by Jim Davidson as well as two episodes of the first series of Monty Python's Flying Circus in October 1969, The Val Doonican Show, and The Roy Castle Show,
The BBC recorded various radio specials at the Hippodrome, including the famous BBC Sight and Sound concert of January 1978. AC/DC's 27 October 1977 appearance at the Hippodrome for Sight and Sound in Concert was later released on DVD as Live '77. The BBC also broadcast the weekly radio program Friday Night is Music Night, a traditional old light entertainment program it had moved from the Camden Theatre (now known as KOKO) in Camden High Street. Presented originally by Robin Boyle and conducted by Sydney Torch, it was presented latterly by Ken Bruce However, with a public brief to bring music to all of the people of the UK, and with additional high-quality space available all over London, the BBC announced its intention to leave the building in August 2003, after mounting minor repair work saw the BBC Concert Orchestra relocate to the Mermaid Theatre in central London, among other places.

After the BBC left the theatre in August 2003, it has been unused and deteriorated considerably - in early 2005, the venue was placed on English Heritage’s ‘buildings at risk’ register as its future is now so uncertain. Barnet Council is said to be keen for the building to carry on being used as an entertainment venue, and the BBC has been given 18 months to sell it as such. If no buyer is forthcoming, sources say the local authority will allow it to be sold at auction in September 2006 with the potential for being developed for other uses - which the BBC have already applied for, but presently been turned down for. The Hippodrome is now owned by the church ministry El-Shaddai International Christian Centre, led by Pastor and apostle Ramson Mumba. For planning purposes the Hippodrome is classed as 'D2' under the 'Use Classes Order' and not under 'Sui Generis' exclusively as a Theatre - no stage productions have taken place for more than 40 years. The 'D2' class means that potential buyers could use the Theatre for: " Cinemas; Dance and Concert Halls ; Sports Halls; Swimming Baths, other Indoor Sports and Leisure Uses" A new operator could use it as a bingo hall, casino, swimming pool, gym or ice skating rink among many other leisure activities. The theatre's potential fate galvanised a group formed of various interest groups and local newspapers, including Save London’s Theatres Campaign, the Theatres Trust, Hendon Times and the Ham&High. In early 2007, Christian group El Shaddai International Christian Centre purchased the hippodrome for £5million.

Building Activity

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