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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 March 2007, 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK
Anger as church buys hippodrome
Van Morrison at the Golders Green Hippodrome in 2000
The venue has seen performances by the likes of Van Morrison
A row has broken out over the sale of Golders Green Hippodrome to a Christian group.

The El Shaddai International Christian Centre has paid 5m for the venue, the ex-home of the BBC Concert Orchestra.

Councillor Susette Palmer from Barnet Council said some people were dismayed because of the church's perceived views on women and homosexuality.

Pastor Dr Ramson Mumba said the church wanted to make the hippodrome available to the local community.

Councillor Palmer said: "It is now going to be something which is not a theatre, which is not producing entertainment, and part of a church group which, if I may, say so, has some very antediluvian ideas about the place of women and homosexuality."

We are not hostile or condescending towards people who are embracing the homosexual lifestyle
Dr Ramson Mumba

Dr Mumba told BBC London: "We would like to turn it into a place of worship, but more than that for it to become a community centre."

He denied accusations the church was opposed to homosexuality.

"We are not hostile or condescending towards people who are embracing the homosexual lifestyle," he said.

Dr Mumba also denied the centre taught women to be subservient in marriage.

'Change of use'

John Levitt from the Save London Theatres Campaign said his group would be objecting to the church buying the theatre, because it involved changing what the building would be used for.

"We do not care whether they are a Catholic church or a Jewish church, they are not a theatre or entertainment organisation taking over this building for non-entertainment purposes."

He said they would be objecting on grounds of a change of use.

Mr Levitt said that even if the objection was overturned, they would want assurances the venue could still be used by a wide range of drama, dance and music groups.

The hippodrome, which is Grade II-listed, was built in 1913 by Bertie Crewe as a music hall.

It has staged performances and live concerts by the likes of Danny La Rue and Marlene Dietrich.

The El Shaddai group was set up by Dr Mumba and his wife Linda and has branches in Manchester, Bradford, Birmingham and the Zambian capital Lusaka.




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