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Hippodrome 120 - Book Review

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by Alison Brinkworth (subscribe)
Freelance journalist in Birmingham with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
Published June 9th 2019
Birmingham Hippodrome Reveals Fascinating History
On the 120th anniversary of Birmingham Hippodrome, a new book reveals 120 fascinating stories and performances from the theatre's archives.

Hippodrome 120, book reviews, Birmingham Hippodrome theatre
The new book to mark Birmingham Hippodrome's 120th anniversary


Hippodrome 120 by David Roberts celebrates the iconic venue with a collection of insights, photographs and posters from over the decades that range from its beginnings as a circus to The Beatles and street dance at The Weekender Festival.

Beyond the striking bright yellow hardcover, is a special foreword by award-winning choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne, who has had a long and special relationship with what he calls "the old lady of Hurst Street".

He provides a sincere and personal welcome to the book, particularly as someone who has brought his New Adventures dance productions to the Hippodrome for over 20 years.

Hippodrome 120, book reviews, Birmingham Hippodrome theatre
Performances modern and historic feature in the book


As mentioned, Birmingham Hippodrome began life as a circus and later moved into variety before becoming the theatre it is known as today, at the heart of the community. That's why there's so much significant material within these pages that chart the passage of time, not just in terms of the theatre but also of fashion, trends, design styles and fonts.

More of a coffee table book with snapshots, posters and vignettes of Birmingham Hippodrome, the author has worked closely with the Hippodrome's Heritage Team and volunteers to make it a read that you can regularly browse or dabble in from time to time, rather than just from cover to cover.

David Roberts, a professor of English at Birmingham City University and a National Teaching Fellow, has chosen well from the archives, even if he does warn the reader in his introduction that there is likely to be one of their favourite moments missing.

Hippodrome 120, book reviews, Birmingham Hippodrome theatre
The Beatles are one of the famous bands that performed at Birmingham Hippodrome


The author knows and loves the theatre well as a Trustee since 2014. Concentrating on the 120th anniversary, there is a specific formula to the book.

There are 120 brief commentaries accompanied by 120 images of items interspersed with summaries for 12 decades of performance.

Within those are some of the world's best known stars but also the personalities that have become close to the heart of the city's audiences. Performers like panto favourite Matt Slack, who features as number 105, or a memory to a former Company Manager Ian Sandy, at number 101. And its fitting that the final note (120) goes to the Birmingham Hippodrome Archive.

Hippodrome 120, book reviews, Birmingham Hippodrome theatre
A foreword is from famed choreographer Matthew Bourne


From the first ballet to the first full length play, Hippodrome 120 offers up drama and history from not just on stage but behind the scenes too, making this a riveting read on many levels that will appeal to a wider audience than just theatre and showbiz fans.

Hippodrome 120 is only available to buy at the Birmingham Hippodrome Coffee Bar.
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Why? Discover Birmingham Hippodrome's amazing history
When: Read anytime
Phone: 0844 338 5000
Where: Birmingham Hippodrome, Hurst Street, Birmingham
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