Birmingham Hippodrome will be hosting a packed week of activities to celebrate the theatre’s rich history as part of the national Heritage Open Days festival from Saturday 14 September.
One of the highlights of the week’s programme will be the unveiling of a giant playbill, which has been commissioned to celebrate 120 years of Birmingham Hippodrome. Measuring 10 metres in length, the playbill will be installed in the main foyer for all to see and takes inspiration from the posters that hung outside the theatre a century ago announcing the acts for each week.
As well as some of the more unusual variety acts from the theatre’s history, the playbill features a selection of the most famous artists who have tread the Hippodrome’s boards over the last 120 years, such as The Beatles and Judy Garland.
Sophie Lewis, Heritage Coordinator at Birmingham Hippodrome said: “As a signature commission of the Hippodrome’s 120th birthday celebrations, displaying a giant playbill in our foyer is a statement of pride in the Hippodrome’s long history. It will only be displayed for a limited amount of time and is not to be missed”
The celebrations during the festival will also see the launch of two new visual art exhibitions in the theatre’s gallery spaces. These new exhibitions, titled Pre-Windrush to the Present Day (presented with Blackstory Partnership) and If Memory Serves, will mark a new season of Hidden Stories exhibitions which focuses on unknown and under acknowledged stories of the diverse communities in Birmingham.
Jonathon Harris, Visual Arts Producer for Birmingham Hippodrome commented: “These exhibitions explore the history of black representation on stage at the Hippodrome and sees curator Ryan Kearney’s research project into Birmingham’s Nightingale Club arrive at the venue to narrate the history of the club’s former venue on Thorp Street. Both exhibitions initiate an important season of visual art programming at the Hippodrome.
“We are taking the organisation’s long and varied history as a jumping off point to explore the stories of people and groups who, historically, have often gone unseen. Making these stories visible on the walls of our building is just one of the many ways we, as an organisation, are working to make everyone welcome.”
The week will end with two new heritage talks reflecting on key moments of the theatre’s 120 year history. Ivan Heard, Birmingham Hippodrome Heritage Volunteer, will present The People Who Propelled the Changing Faces of the Hippodrome, exploring the key people who have influenced the building’s structure, followed by Variety and Vaudeville – The Stars of Birmingham Hippodrome which will take a closer look at the acts featured on the anniversary playbill installation, presented by Sophie Lewis and Jonathon Harris.
Lewis added, “The special talks will offer great insight into our heritage, plus we are offering free mini taster tours throughout the week, giving a unique glimpse of our building, including our beautiful auditorium with its Royal Box.
“There will also be a chance to view archive items and chat to heritage volunteers about the theatre’s history at our coffee mornings. We can’t wait to share the special history of our theatre and that of our fantastic city during this key festival in the heritage calendar.”
Heritage Open Days is England’s largest festival of history and culture. The national programme brings together 2,000 organisations, 5,000 events and 40,000 volunteers to offer new experiences and opportunities to explore previously hidden places all for free.
You can view the full programme of activities for the week here. All activities are free, but booking is recommended for tours and talks where spaces are limited.