Golders Green Hippodrome
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, and is used, by El Shaddai International Christian Centre, an evangelical church.
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 Ralph Reader's 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, and also saw broadcasts and concerts from the BBC Big Band and BBC Radio 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 West End 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 programme it had moved from the Camden Palace Theatre. 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 was left unused and deteriorated considerably, to the extent that, in early 2005, the venue was placed on English Heritage’s ‘buildings at risk’ register as its future had become so uncertain. Barnet Council was keen for the building to carry on being used as an entertainment venue, and the BBC was given 18 months to sell it as such. However, since no buyer was forthcoming, the local authority allowed it to be sold at auction in September 2006 with the potential for being developed for other uses - for which the BBC had already applied but been turned down.
For planning purposes the Hippodrome came to be classed as 'D2' under the 'Use Classes Order' and not under 'Sui Generis' exclusively as a theatre - no stage productions had taken place for more than 40 years. The 'D2' class meant that potential buyers could use the theatre for: "Cinemas, Dance and Concert Halls, Sports Halls, Swimming Baths, other Indoor Sports and Leisure Uses."
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, the Hendon Times and the Hampstead & Highgate Express. In early 2007, the Christian group El Shaddai International Christian Centre purchased the Hippodrome for £5million, despite local concerns over the group's beliefs and its intentions for the building.
- The Gallery - Pantobills - Aladdin - Golders Green Hippodrome
- 19631965 The Gang Show and Wimbledon
- The Gilbert and Sullivan Operas on Television
- Pamela Green: Naked As Nature Intended
- history of television studios in London
- Camden New Journal
- Concerts - About Maria Friedman
- [verleysen.net] : Home
- Barclay James Harvest BBC Broadcasts and Transcription Discs
- Procol at Golders Green Hippo in March 1974
- A Scent Of Flowers
- A Scent Of Flowers
- Golders Green Hippodrome, Golders Green, England
- BBC Programme Catalogue
- BBC Programme Catalogue
- "BBC News article about Hippodrome purchase". 29 March 2007. Retrieved 5 January 2010.
- "Local press article about Hippodrome purchase".
- Save London Theatres page on Golders Green Hippodrome includes original planning cross section
- Old Recording studios page on Golders Green Hippodrome includes some interesting pictures
- Theatre history with original Bertie Crewe plans and archive images
- El Shaddai