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Last Updated: Monday, 16 August, 2004, 11:13 GMT 12:13 UK
Dodd backs cinema campaign
Ken Dodd
Comedian Ken Dodd wants to safeguard the old music hall
Campaigners trying to save a former Edwardian music hall in Wrexham have won the support of comedian Ken Dodd.

The Wrexham Hippodrome, which dates back to 1909, has been sold to Cheshire property developers for retail space.

However, local residents are trying to persuade Cadw, the organisation which protects historical Wales, to grant it Grade II listed status.

Ken Dodd is among a number of famous people who have performed on the Hippodrome's stage.

"Ken Dodd's appeared at the Hippodrome on six previous occasions," said John Humberstone, one of the committee members trying to save the building.

"He says it's a marvellous audience and he thinks Wrexham is desperately in need of the theatre.

Wrexham Hippodrome's interior
The cinema was refurbished to its original state in 1961

"When you get evidence like this from Ken Dodd and Rochdale Council who tell us that Gracie Fields appeared at the Hippodrome, it gives our appeal more credence," he added.

Mr Humberstone said that Gracie Fields' performance was a turning point in her career.

"The leading lady was sick when the reviewer was at the Hippodrome, Gracie Fields took over and it was a real turning point in her career," he added.

Campaigners hoping to save the Hippodrome argue that the town cannot lose its history and if Cadw can be persuaded that the building is of local importance, it could be saved.

A group of local people want to turn the elaborately- decorated building into a media centre for the whole of the community.

At one time there were five music halls, or cinemas as they became, in Wrexham.

Surplus to requirement

These included the Majestic cinema, now the Elihu Yale pub, and the Empire which is the Seven Stars public house.

Last November, the former Empire cinema, itself a Grade II listed building, was declared surplus to requirement by Wrexham Council.

The Empire opened its doors on 1 April 1902, seven years before the Hippodrome, and had a mixed act of variety shows and short clips of early newsreels.

The Opera House, as the Hippodrome was known 95 years ago, was first advertised in the Wrexham Advertiser newspaper on 1 July 1909.

Four years later, in July 1913 a new company, The Wrexham Hippodrome Ltd, was registered.

The stage was occupied regularly by travelling companies who lodged in the town for a week.

Then, on 9 September 1929, the Hippodrome showed the first sound film in Wrexham.

It was renovated in 1961and remained a cinema until 1998 when it closed.

Wrexham Council's planning officers have been asked for a report into the building before they decide whether to ask Cadw to grant it Grade II listed status.

The issue will be discussed again next month.




SEE ALSO:
Final curtain for music hall
19 Nov 03  |  North East Wales
Cinema staff go nude
12 Sep 03  |  North East Wales
Appeal to save old music hall
27 May 04  |  North East Wales


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