Play Hard

5 reasons to visit Darlington Hippodrome

If variety is the spice of life, then Darlington Hippodrome is the hottest place to visit this summer (and beyond).

Written by Becky Hardy
Published 29.07.2022

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What we now know as the Hippodrome has been at the heart of cultural life in Darlington since 1907.

Brought to life by a former Italian impresario who was famous for performing to royalty (we hear Queen Victoria gave him a silver scarf pin, she was so impressed), Darlington Hippodrome was designed with variety in mind. Taking its name from the ancient Greek venue where horse-drawn chariot races took place, the Hippodrome was intended to specialise in animal-orientated entertainment, too – incorporating circuses, menageries and the like into your regular music hall turns.

Having survived the arrival of the ‘silver screen’ and the Golden Age of Hollywood, two World Wars and an ambitious £13.7 million restoration project in 2017, Darlington Hippodrome remains not only as a resilient reminder of how much we value creativity and culture here in the North East, but also continues to top the bill of local theatres when it comes to those offering the ultimate variety in modern entertainment – both in front of and behind the curtain.

Don’t believe us? Just check this little lot out…

OUTSTANDING THEATRE SHOWS

As we’ve now (rather indulgently) come to expect from any theatre in the North East, Darlington Hippodrome run the gamut of top quality theatre shows.

As well as Broadway and West End productions, you can expect everything from dance extravaganzas and live concerts to evenings with stand ups, scientists and sportspeople, and even solve-along murder mysteries.

That’s before we mention what is often a highlight in any theatre’s Christmas programme (drum roll, please)… their festive panto! Not that Darlington Hippodrome simply offer up your tired ‘he’s behind you’ routine every year. Oh, no they don’t. In this neck of the woods, Christmas pantomimes are taken seriously. Well, as seriously as you ever can take a panto, anyway. The Hippodrome team work hard in partnership with the world’s biggest pantomime producer, Crossroad Pantomimes, to ensure that, every year, some of the biggest names in showbusiness come on board to bring stunning sets, showstopping costumes and jaw-dropping special effects to life on stage with barrel-loads of laughter. This year they’ve already confirmed Christopher Biggins as Mrs Smee in their own rendition of Peter Pan, with more surprises surely to be announced as the festivities draw closer.

Find out what’s on at Darlington Hippodrome here.

 

Header image credit: Scott Akoz

ACTIVITIES, WORKSHOPS AND PLAY SESSIONS

Sure, you can head to Darlington Hippodrome at any time of year, day or night, confident that you’ll be thoroughly entertained with whatever show is gracing their stage. But did you know that the theatre also runs a heavenly host of activities, workshops, play and craft sessions for all ages year-round, too?

Want to keep your fitness up and spend quality time with the little ones in your life? Why not give the Family Dance Workshop a go. Always aspired to be a scriptwriter but have never got going? Try a Creative Writing Workshop. Got a special event coming up that you need to find a show-stopping accessory for? Craft your own fascinator with the Northern School of Art. Fancy learning more about the theatre? Take a Backstage Tour. Interested in learning more about set design? Simply Make Your Own Theatre.

You really do have the cream of the cultural crop when it comes to the classes and workshops on offer at Darlington Hippodrome. And while they’ll undoubtedly help you develop your health and fitness, creativity and curiosity, these activities are also a great opportunity to meet other like-minded people within your local community and make friends. So, really, it’s a win-win-win.

Discover all the classes and courses on offer at Darlington Hippodrome here.

THE FOOD AND DRINK IS UNREAL  

Let’s face it – making the most of all that cultural clout and creativity doesn’t half work up an appetite. Which, luckily enough, can be (more than) satisfied at any one of the five bars and lounges at Darlington Hippodrome.

Not that you have to be a member of the audience to enjoy the bevs or scran here. Whether you’re out shopping and want to take the weight off your feet or fancy meeting for lunch with friends somewhere special, Darlington Hippodrome is only a short stroll from the town centre so there’s no need to wait until showtime – you can soak up a little bit of the theatre any time of the week.

Let us break it down for you:

 

Image credit: Scott Akoz
  • The Hippo Lounge

For all your gastronomical needs. Located right in the heart of the restored theatre, this contemporary café is a verified oasis throughout the day, serving light bites and hot and cold drinks in a relaxed atmosphere.

  • 1907 Bar

A nod to Darlington Hippodrome’s esteemed origins, the 1907 Bar can be found to the rear of the stalls and serves a similarly extensive array of beer, wine, spirits and soft drinks (both hot and cold).

  • The John Wade Group Lounge

Taking pride of place in the Hippodrome’s first floor atrium, The John Wade Group Lounge is a decadent drinking spot and perhaps one of the best people-watching lookouts in the theatre.

  • Footlights

This charming bar on the first-floor promenade will ensure that you won’t miss the start of the show waiting in lengthy queues for your chosen serves.

  • Panto Bar

Never one to discriminate, Darlington Hippodrome ensures that every one of the customers has swift, easy access to some refreshments with a bar on every floor. You can find the Panto Bar in the second-floor atrium.

Find out more about the food and drink on offer at Darlington Hippodrome here

Image credit: Scott Akoz

THERE’S PARTY AND EVENTS SPACE FOR HIRE

Thanks to that multi-million pound restoration project we mentioned earlier, Darlington Hippodrome can now offer a wide variety of spaces for hire that promise to lend charm, character and conversation to any kind of event.

As well as their luxurious 1,000–seat auditorium, which is nestled amongst a bright, modern café-bar and galleries, we can have our run of The John Wade Group Lounge, the Living Water Room and the rehearsal studios here too. What’s more, Darlington Hippodrome sits adjacent to The Hullabaloo, which also offers a versatile studio theatre space available for hire and seating for up to 177 people.

 

Image credit: Scott Akoz

But what perhaps marks Darlington Hippodrome out from the crowd most when considering the building’s appeal for your own performances, parties, events or meetings is its accessibility. Sure, it’s Edwardian grandeur can’t help but wow guests, but its lifts to and wheelchair spaces on all levels (both front and back of house), its transport connectivity and the accommodation options in its surrounding area ensures no-one needs to miss out on the fun.

Find out more about the spaces available to hire at Darlington Hippodrome here.

Or to discuss further with one of their team, email or telephone the Box Office on 01325 405 405.

 

Image credit: Scott Akoz

THE PRESTIGIOUS HERITAGE AND DISPLAYS

We’ve already talked a little about the illustrious longevity of the theatre earlier in this article, but you don’t simply need to take our word for it. One of the things we love most about any visit to Darlington Hippodrome is soaking up the tales of glitz, glamour and glory in the North East that adorn the walls in their four galleries.

Enter into The Catherine Cookson Heritage Gallery on the Heritage Promenade or The Gillian Dickinson Gallery (at Dress Circle level) and discover the exciting new exhibition, From Page to Stage. As the name suggests, the exhibition offers visitors the unrivalled chance to glimpse behind the curtain into the world of backstage theatre, as the Production Design and Costume Interpretation with Design teams from The Northern School of Art share their knowledge, skills and creativity in a series of innovative and revealing displays.

Fancy some history with your beer? Darlington Hippodrome have got your back. Head to the Footlights Bar on the first floor and journey Backstage At The Edwardian Theatre. This permanent exhibition offers us all a chance to explore the backstage world of the theatre of days gone by, learning the secrets behind the tricks and techniques that astonished Edwardian audiences – including ghostly apparitions on stage, flying actors and quick-change scenery – long before they had access to the kind of technology and effects we employ today.

Discover more about the heritage of Darlington Hippodrome and how it’s brought to life in their galleries here.

Ready to book your tickets, hire your events space or just to pop into Darlington Hippodrome for a bite to eat? We’ll meet you there!

Find out more about how to get to Darlington Hippodrome and what’s coming up on their website, or follow the theatre on Facebook and Instagram.

 Darlington Hippodrome, Parkgate, Darlington DL1 1RR

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