The Hulme Playhouse
Theatre, Chichester Road and Warwick Street, Manchester
Formerly - The Hippodrome
- Later - The Grand Junction Theatre / Junction Picture Theatre / Playhouse
/ BBC Playhouse / Nia Centre / The Fountain Gate Chapel
Introduction - Brenhan
Players - BBC Playhouse - NDO
- 1991 Onwards - An Audience with
Pete Best - 2012 Photographs - 2013
Photographs - 2016 Photographs
Above - The Hulme Playhouse and Hippodrome
Theatre in March 2016 - Courtesy Alfred Mason.
The Hulme Playhouse
was constructed next door to the current Hulme
Hippodrome and originally opened as the Hippodrome Theatre itself
in 1902. The Theatre was
designed by J. J. Alley
who also designed the Theatre next door and both were connected by an
arcade. Alley also designed several other Theatres in Manchester,
including the Metropole,
Osborne, the Hulme
Hippodrome, and the Queens
Park Hippodrome along with the Pavilion
Theatre in Liverpool,
and several others in the Broadhead
Theatre was smaller than its neighbour but had a similar auditorium
with two straight Balconies, but this Theatre has slips running to the
proscenium from the upper Balcony. The Theatre originally had a capacity
Right - The Auditorium of the Hulme Playhouse, Manchester
during its time as a BBC studio in November 1985
- Photo Courtesy Ted Bottle.
In 1905 the
Theatre was renamed the Grand Junction Theatre whilst the Theatre next
door, originally called the Grand Junction Theatre and Floral Hall,
was renamed the Hulme
Hippodrome. Both Theatres effectively swapping names.
In 1929 the Theatre was converted for Cinema use and renamed
the Junction Picture Theatre.
In 1951 the Theatre was renamed again, this time to the
Playhouse and was in use as a live Theatre again. Information on the
James Brenhan Players playing at the Hulme Playhouse in 1955 can be
seen here. In 1956 the Theatre was taken over
by the BBC and used as a Radio Recording Studio and information on this
period can be seen here. It was also used as a studio
for the Northern Dance Orchestra (NDO) and information on this can be
seen here. Information on the Hulme Playhouse's more
recent years can be seen below. There are also many
photographs of the Theatre in 2012, 2013,
and 2016 shown below.
Brenhan Players at the Hulme Playhouse in 1955
Introducing Anthony Booth
Booth's first stage appearance (at school) was as Portia in
Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice". Since then
he has progressed to male parts! Before joining this company
he has played in repertory in Blackpool,
St. Anne's, Bury and Castleford. He is married to the company's
assistant stage manager Gale Howard and they have a daughter
Cherie, aged six months.
His favourite part is Archie Fellows in "The
Shop at Sly Corner" and he has an ambition to play Bobby
Dariver in "As Long as They're Happy", as it was once
his ambition to become a crooner - His hobbies - he says - are
sleep and more sleep! - Text from an article in the programme
Right - A programme for the James Brennan Players
in 'A Murder Has Been Arranged' which commenced at the Playhouse
Theatre, Hulme on Monday the 18th of April 1955 - In the cast
were Faith Owen, Gale Howard, Jack Medley, Andree Evans, Adele
Loraine, Nicholas Grimshaw, David Kerr, Zita Jenner, and Anthony
Booth, (father of Cherie Booth, mentioned in the article above
at age 6 months, Cherie would go on to become the wife of the
future British Prime Minister Tony Blair).
Above - A programme and ticket stubs for
the James Brennan Players in 'A Murder Has Been Arranged' which
commenced at the Playhouse Theatre, Hulme on Monday the 18th
of April 1955 - In the cast were Faith Owen, Gale Howard, Jack
Medley, Andree Evans, Adele Loraine, Nicholas Grimshaw, David
Kerr, Zita Jenner, and Anthony Booth, (father of Cherie Booth
who would go on to become the wife of the future British Prime
Minister Tony Blair).
The BBC at
the Hulme Playhouse 1956 - 1987
Above - The Proscenium and Auditorium of
the Hulme Playhouse, Manchester during its time as a BBC studio
in November 1985 - Photo Courtesy Ted
1956 the Theatre was renamed again, this time to the BBC Playhouse
and used from 1956 to 1987 by the BBC as a Radio studio. A visitor
to the site, Alfred Mason, has kindly sent in some ticket stubs
and show information for the BBC Playhouse during this period,
which can be seen below, and says:- 'I have many fond memories
of the Playhouse, having been a member of the audience when
the BBC did their radio recordings there.
Right - A Ticket for Tony Brandon chairing
"A question of fun" autographed by John Le Mesurier,
at the BBC Playhouse, Hulme in 1974 - Courtesy Alfred Mason.
I was lucky enough to spend many (mostly) Sunday
nights in the Playhouse over many years. It was the most wonderful
and intimate atmosphere of any theatre I have ever been in and
it is sadly missed. The admission tickets from the BBC radio
recordings give a good indication of what shows they recorded
there. The ticket for "A question of fun" (shown right)
is autographed by John Le Mesurier of Dad's Army fame - he must
have been on the panel when I obtained it.' - Alfred Mason.
At the straw hat
|Clinton Ford, Barbara Law, The N.D.O.
|The Mike Yarwood Show
||Featured Barbara Knox of Coronation Street
|The Larry Grayson Show
|A question of fun
||Panel type game
|Ask the family
||Panel type game
|Listen to Les
|The Variety Club
|Tim Brooke-Taylor, Barry Cryer, John Junkin,
The Denis King Trio
|The show with 10 Legs
||Featured Alison Steadman
|Castle's on the air
|This family Robinson
||Joe Gladwin, Tony Melody
|The Des O'Connor Show
||Tony Christie, Stu Francis
The Enchanting World of Hinge and Bracket
Hinge and Bracket (Patrick Fyffe) (George Logan)
|I will always remember Joe Gladwin stating
the following: "I have been in this business a long time
and I have to say that Hinge and Bracket are one of the
finest acts I have ever seen" He said this while on stage
at the Playhouse.
|A very private man
The above BBC Playhouse Show Details were kindly sent
in by Alfred Mason and are compiled from his own collection
of tickets from shows he saw himself during the 1970s and
Above - The Auditorium of the Hulme Playhouse,
Manchester during its time as a BBC studio in November 1985
Photo Courtesy Ted Bottle.
Above - A Flyer for the Farewell Production at the Hulme
Playhouse on the 15th of June 1986 - Courtesy Ian Reed.
Above - A photograph of the BBC's Wurlitzer
Theatre organ No 3, at the Hulme Playhouse in 1981 - Courtesy
Alan Ashton who says: 'The organ was originally from the Empress
Ballroom in Blackpool, and was eventually removed and the
pipework incorporated in the Wurlitzer in the Assembly Hall
at Worthing. The console itself is now, I understand, in the
ownership of a private collector.
Above - The Hulme Hippodrome
and Playhouse Theatres in November 2011 - Courtesy K.R.
The Hulme Playhouse Theatre was also used as
a Studio by the Northern Dance Orchestra (NDO), and
more information on this can be found here
1991 the Theatre was renamed yet again, this time to the Nia Centre,
and converted internally for mid size touring productions but the stage
depth was made smaller and the site lines were compromised and the venture
failed. The Theatre closed in 2000.
Despite being a Grade II Listed Building the Hulme Playhouse
stood empty and slowly decaying for many years before being acquired
by the Fountainhead Church, who planned to restore it and convert it
into a church and community centre.
Right - A photograph of the auditorium of the Hulme
Playhouse in April 2013 in use as a Church - Courtesy Ian Reed.
By May 2013 they had cleaned and rewired the Theatre,
repaired the roof, and reopened the Theatre as a Church. Some Photographs
of the Theatre in April 2012 before the Church began work on the building
are shown below.
November 2013 Ian Reed, whose wonderful CDs of the Northern Dance Orchestra
at the Hulme Playhouse can be seen below, visited
the Theatre and sent in some photographs of the work done so far. Ian
says:- "A lot of work has now been done on the Theatre by the Church,
although there is still lots more to do. The work has been done by the
Church, led by Charles and Adam, with help from the congregation. Work
is ongoing in the dressing rooms. Most spectacular is the clean up of
the balcony as can be seen from the photographs below
- all the seats are now cleaned and capable of being used. For essential
work like the electrics, outside contractors have been brought in. What
a transformation!" - Ian Reed.
Right - A photograph showing the height of the water
damage at the Hulme Playhouse prior to renovation - Courtesy Ian Reed.
In May 2016 the Church was still
resident in the former Playhouse Theatre and the building had been renamed
The Fountain Gate Chapel. However, in 2017 it was announced that the
Theatre would be put up for auction on May the 18th 2017 and that the
Church would have to find £300,000 if they wished to purchase
it before that date. A Campaign by the Church was quickly started at
the end of March to raise the funds to purchase the Theatre. If you
would like to help this cause please visit their Campaign site here.
with Pete Best, Saturday 11 June 2016
Above - An Audience with Pete Best at the
Hulme Playhouse, Saturday 11 June 2016 - Courtesy Alfred Mason.
More images of the Theatre on the day of this event can be seen
Playhouse was used as a Theatre again for a special one day
only event on Saturday 11 June 2016 when Pete Best, the original
drummer with The Beatles returned to the same stage where he
and his fellow Beatles made their historic radio debut in 1962.
Right - Pete Best, Roag Best, and Peter Pilbeam
at the Hulme Playhouse in June 2016 - Courtesy Alfred Mason.
Pete was in conversation with Paul Wilde, who
is a Manchester music historian. The day also included live
music from a Beatles tribute band. Other guests included Peter
Pilbeam, the BBC producer who auditioned The Beatles for their
very first radio recording at the Playhouse on 7 March 1962,
and Mark Lewisohn, the Beatles author and historian who is considered
to be one of the worlds leading authorities on The Beatles.
historic recordings the BBC made of the Beatles were broadcast
to the nation the following day on 8 March 1962 giving the Playhouse
an important place in Beatles folklore and pop music history.
Left - A Flyer for the BBC Radio Recording
of the Beatles Debut at the Playhouse Theatre, Hulme, Manchester,
in March 1962 - Courtesy Ian Reed and Paul Wilde. Ian Reed has
also produced many CDs of the Northern Dance Orchestra at the
Hulme Playhouse and more information on this can be seen below.
This non profit event which was billed as An
Audience with Pete Best was in aid of the roof and of
the Theatre itself both of which need further renovation and
More images of the Theatre on the day of this
event can be seen below.
Text and most images kindly sent in by Alfred
Mason, June 2016.
the Hulme Playhouse Theatre in April 2012
Above - Photographs of the Hulme Playhouse Theatre
in April 2012 - Courtesy K.R
the Hulme Playhouse Theatre in November 2013
Above - Three photographs showing the ongoing restoration
of the Hulme Playhouse - Courtesy Ian Reed, November 2013.
of the Hulme Playhouse Theatre on the day of An Audience with Pete Best,
Saturday 11 June 2016
Above - Photographs of the Hulme Playhouse Theatre
on the day of An Audience with Pete Best, Saturday 11 June 2016 - Courtesy
Northern Dance Orchestra CDs
The Hulme Playhouse Theatre was
also used as a Studio by the Northern Dance Orchestra (NDO), and a visitor
to the site, Ian Reed, has very kindly sent me copies of some of his
CDs which feature hitherto unreleased recordings of the NDO which is
a most remarkable set of recordings and of great quality. Details of
the CDs and how to purchase your own copies are shown below.
These Northern Dance Orchestra CDs were produced from
the only known master tapes of the band, now in private collections.
It was thought that because of contractual arrangements, which meant
that band numbers were played twice then wiped, that none of this material
remained. The NDO project uncovered some wonderful recordings, now totaling
some 400, from which these CDs were made. The quality of the recordings
is excellent, the playing superb, the solos sublime. They have been
very well received by professional musicians and enthusiasts alike.
So far the non profit making NDO project has raised over £4,000
for charities by generous donations from purchasers. The CDs are available
now and full details of how to order can be found on Ian Reed's website.
On Ruby CD 1, released in October 2013, there are 29 tracks
of BBC experimental stereo recorded in 1960/61/63 at the Playhouse theatre
in Hulme, Manchester, in ground breaking recordings, made long before
the BBC was able to broadcast stereo from its transmitters. Some of
the recordings have the original announcements by the late Roger Moffat.
CD 2 contains the latest stereo recordings made just before the NDO
All the NDO CDs have been made at cost, with licensing by the
BBC, and permission from the Musicians Union.
Many thought that after 40 years since it played at the Playhouse,
the recordings of the NDO had been lost forever - we think that these
recordings prove that after considerable unpaid work by the NDO project
members, this was indeed a big band well worth saving.
For more information and track listings please look at Ian's Website.
You may find the following pages from this site