The Playhouse Theatre, Hulme
The Playhouse Theatre was the home to many BBC Radio Productions and originally It had a capacity of 1,500, which suited both Comedy and Music productions,and contained a “Mighty Wurlitzer”, Sadly it was found unsuitable for TV recordings owing to lack of sufficient ventilation, I understand, otherwise it might have become “The City Varieties of the North West”
The “Wurlitzer” was brought from the Empress Ballroom in the Winter Gardens in Blackpool.
Ralph Hill has commented - “I'm guessing that as Program Services Organiser I was asked to start negotiations.
In the end, with Controller Radio's money I agreed to pay around £1000 for the organ - a lot in 1960, and agreed to have it professionally installed.
I found an expert, recommended by the organ trust to install the organ, largely in the basement, under the stage, for around £4000 “
Reginald Dixon came to play it and record the very first program from the organ. The rest is history.
When the theatre was closed the organ was removed, and I understand never used again, becoming a “donor” for other poorly Wurlitzers ( See Phil Driscoll’s and Peter Pilbeam’s update in “colleagues comments”)
The theatre was also the “Studio” for the NDO and later the NRO, and the majority of its recordings were done here,
It has to be said that recordings and live transmissions from this studio always sounded quite superb - a tribute to the talented sound mixers involved with the band over the years.
This was of course no substitute to hearing the band live in any theatre or hall - quite simply the best sounds around !
The Hulme Playhouse, Manchester was built as the Hippodrome in 1902, next door to the current Hulme Hippodrome, by J. J. Alley. In 1905 the Theatre was renamed the Grand Junction Theatre and 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. Five years later it was renamed again to the BBC Playhouse and used from 1956 to 1987 by the BBC as a Radio and occasional TV studio.
In 1991 the Theatre changed its name yet again, this time to the Nia Centre, and converted internally for mid size touring productions but the stage depth was made smaller,the site lines were compromised and the venture failed. The Theatre closed in 2000. The Hulme Playhouse is Grade II Listed. It is now in regular use as a Church (6 / 2016)
There are moves to restore the Hulme Hippodrome but it sure looks in poor condition at the moment
Playhouse auditorium 11 / 2013 and the yet to be restored changing rooms - the water came up to the height of the mirrors !
2016 - Now mostly restored and in use !
The Playhouse seen in the 80’s when the BBC used the theatre for light entertainment shows and recording
the BBC Northern Dance Orchestra and
Listen to the sound waves reflecting from the studio's walls -
ethereal dots on paper,
dancing and bouncing
then they are gone forever.
Though the roof still leaks !
Rod Cotter on the Playhouse