Agenda item

Darlington Hippodrome

Presentation by Head of Culture


The Head of Culture and Programming and Development Director gave a presentation (previously circulated) on the Darlington Hippodrome.


It was reported that the restoration process of the Civic Theatre, a Grade II listed landmark building built in 1907, began in 2010; that restoration and refurbishment was required to improve the theatre experience; and the key changes to the theatre were outlined.


Members were informed that the improvements to the Hippodrome, including the increased capacity, had attracted larger productions and a wider audience; increased the offer of function spaces, conference facilities and weddings; and it was reported that 2019/20 target of 13,000 for conference and hire had been exceeded at 21,000, highlighting a clear demand which would be developed further.


It was reported that there was now an increased level of creative learning and engagement, with education spaces and breakout rooms; a volunteering service had been developed; and Members were informed that all key performance indicators were met in 2019/20. Reference was also made to the Hullabaloo Theatre and its programme of events.


Details were provided of the impact of COVID-19 on the theatre. It was reported that donations were received from ticketholders; financial support provided from furlough scheme; and successful bids of £1M and £500k were made to the Art Council cultural recovery fund, which were being used to offset loss of ticket sale, sustain the theatre and retain jobs.


Reference was made to the online offer available to customers during the period of closure between March and September 2020; that going forward there would be a hybrid offer of online streamed events, live theatre, cinema offer and west end live encore screenings; and details provided of the measures in place to support the safe return of customers. In relation to ticket sales it was anticipated that sales would be at 75 per cent of normal ticket sales by March 2022.


Discussion ensued on the financial support during the pandemic; Members were advised that the furlough scheme was used initially for all Hippodrome staff; that the cultural recovery funds were time limited, with phase 1 funding spent between October and March 2021 and phase two to be spent between  April and June 2021; and following a question on supplier contracts during the pandemic it was reported that whilst there had been some product wastage, many of the bigger suppliers had allowed contracts to be paused. 


Following a question, Members were assured that any historical maintenance issues were addressed during the renovation and all site costs and income were reported; and in relation to the key performance indicators it was highlighted that digital engagement, education and outreach could be captured in the future.


RESOLVED – That the thanks of this Scrutiny Committee be extended to the Head of Culture and Programming and Development Director for their informative and interesting presentation.



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