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Inside Hulme Hippodrome, Manchester

As part of RIBA’s Love Architecture Festival, the Manchester Society of Architects organised an open day, arranging access to a diverse range of spaces and places normally not open to the public. Due to prior engagements that day I had to (begrudgingly) choose just a single location for a whistle-stop visit. Top of my list was the Grade II listed Hulme Hippodrome, somewhere I’d been curious about since living nearby in the late 90s. As with Mayfield Depot and Victoria Baths, I’m drawn to neglected places in the city with rich cultural and historical depths, and had previously seen photos of the delights within.

360° panorama of Hulme Hippodrome interior by Joby Catto of Anti Limited

The nondescript facade of the building gives little clue of what’s inside, but the interior itself is stunning: riotously bright colours, ornate plaster mouldings and grandiose details abound. The richness and detailing in the auditorium is tempered by years of weather damage and dereliction. Neither time nor the elements have been been kind to the building; dilapidation has taken a toll on the furniture and fittings; the roof’s badly damaged, exposing the interior to Manchester’s delightful climate; and multiple pigeons have occupied most parts of the building, leaving fecal streaks everywhere.

360° panorama of Hulme Hippodrome interior by Joby Catto of Anti Limited

Luckily the Hippodrome has many admirers and supporters who recognise both the historical importance of the building, and the potential it has as a community resource. One man in particular is leading the drive to restore the former music hall and theatre to its former glory.

I chatted to Tony Wright, the operations manager for social enterprise The Youth Village, who’s worked tirelessly to raise funds and awareness since they occupied the building in 2011. His passion for the project is infectious. It needs to be; he estimates a full refurbishment will cost a cool £20 million, with initial work to fix the roof and guttering around £50,000. It’s an incredible space though… and through hard work, smart investment and strategic partnerships, that might be achievable. Spread the word about the anonymous building with the incredible secret hidden inside, and how you might be able to help…

Look around the image above to explore the Hippodrome in two different panoramic 360° views. Click/tap the white hotspot marker to jump from viewpoint to viewpoint.

Valley of Lights parade finale, Hebden Bridge

Click/tap the image above to view a panoramic 360° view of the scene in your browser.
Click here to view a fullscreen version for some mobile devices. 

After the excitement and spectacle of Todmorden’s Valley of Lights celebration on Saturday, expectations were running high for the Hebden Bridge leg. Swapping the rain for a clear, frosty moonlit night, the town shivered with cold and the thrill of anticipation.

Handmade Parade invited me to come and take some panoramic photos, so I was lucky enough to get a grandstand view of the finale at Old Gate, right across the river. We watched as the lantern parade culminated in the participants lining the riverbanks, waiting expectantly. Performers filed over the old bridge, heralding the start of the finale performance, and then we were treated to an hour of stunning dance, theatre, puppetry, drama and pyrotechnics.

The atmosphere in the crowd was electric, fuelled by the eye-catching performances (from the highly talented local Handmade Parade and FlameOz crews). As I’d sat behind the fire sculptures at Tod, it was great to get an audience-eye view of the main show. Two fire dancers started the finale, marching over the bridge and twirlingFirst watching the tableau depicting the rainclouds gathering over the valley’s characteristic landmarks… cottages, mills and even Stoodley Pike. As the rainclouds encircled the valley, a huge furious paper dragon came down Old Gate, wrapping itself around the players; then shadow puppeteers evoked the enveloping wall of water which the flooding brought to the valley. Stellar fire performances from FlameOz gripped the audience, while a fiery sculpture of the dragon glowered in the gloom behind. This ramped up the excitement further, before a wall of pyrotechnics lit up the length of the river and bought the event to a close. Epic stuff…

If you click the image at the top of the page you’ll be able to view three different 360° panoramas, shot from a pole above the crowds. They show different stages in the show; from the lantern landmarks, to the fire sculpture, and the pyrotechnic fountains at the finale. And if you pan around you’ll see the crowd agog and enrapt, and may even spot some wide-eyed children looking from the first floor window of the cottage behind us.

After that we moved to the car park to see the 200 LED-strewn riders on the Night Light Bike Ride as they streamed in for a quick break before moving onto Mytholmroyd, before heading down to the canalside for food, drink and craft stalls at the Night Market & Canal Boat Flotilla. A hot cider from the Real Cider Company, and a Porcus sausage barm did wonders to restore circulation after several hours in subzero temperatures.

It was great family night out, and felt like a resounding success. It shows that, despite adversity and hardship, local talent and enthusiasm is enough for a community to tease out a silver lining from dark storm clouds here in the Pennines!

A flaming fire finale to Hebden Bridge's leg of Valley of Lights, Nov 2012

 

Thirty six hours in three minutes: the Octagon, Bolton

We’ve long enjoyed working within the North’s vibrant arts sector… an area where artistic and technological innovation are natural (but sometimes uncommon) bedfellows. So we were very pleased to be invited to bring our experience to bear and develop a solution for the Octagon Theatre, Bolton (described by the Guardian as one of the best, most revitalised regional theatres in the country).

As a forward-looking theatre, working hard to connect with a wider (especially young) audience, they wanted a high impact way to highlight all aspects of the theatre. Traditionally the public tends to focus on the talent onstage, to the detriment of the expert support teams whose stagecraft ensures a smooth, seamless and professional experience. Another key feature of the Octagon is the ability to reconfigure the auditorium in three distinct and highly different layouts, tailored for each performance.

We took the brief and applied our experience to develop an integrated, cost-effective solution to help shine a light behind the scenes at the Octagon – a permanent timelapse feature in the main auditorium. An unobtrusive, user-friendly camera allows the theatre staff to capture performances, rehearsals, training… or in this case, a wholesale reconfiguration of the theatre between performances. Staff can then use this internally, and integrate it with their wider social media strategy… you can view some of the results on their YouTube channel. As you can see, it provides an exciting and compelling visual narrative. Best viewed in HD for the maximum impact!

This integrated, easy-to-use solution was accompanied by comprehensive training, to ensure a value-led package with multiple applications across the theatre. It was great to help focus a spotlight on the talent offstage, as well as those treading the boards…