Music Hall - Surviving Music Halls

Surviving Music Halls

London was the centre of Music Hall with hundreds of venues, often in the entertainment rooms of public houses. With the decline in popularity of Music Hall, many were abandoned, or converted to other uses, such as cinemas and their interiors lost. There are a number of purpose built survivors, including the Hackney Empire, an outstanding example of the late Music Hall period (Frank Matcham 1901). This has been restored to its moorish splendour and now provides an eclectic programme of events from opera to "Black Variety Nights". A mile to the south is Hoxton Hall an 1863 example of the saloon-style. It is unrestored but maintained in its original layout, and currently used as a community centre and theatre. In the neighbouring borough, Collins Music Hall (built about 1860) still stands on the North side of Islington Green. The hall closed in the 1960s and currently forms part of a bookshop.

In Clapham, The Grand, originally the 1900 'Grand Palace of Varieties', has been restored, but its interior reflects its modern use as a music venue and nightclub. The Greenwich Theatre was originally the 'Rose and Crown Music Hall' (1855), and later became 'Crowder's Music Hall and Temple of Varieties'. The building has been extensively modernised and little of the original layout remains.

In the nondescript Grace's Alley, off Cable Street, Stepney stands Wilton's Music Hall. This 1858 example of the giant pub hall survived use as a church, fire, flood and war intact, but was virtually derelict, after its use as a rag warehouse, in the 1960s. The Wilton's Music Hall Trust has embarked on a fund-raising campaign to restore the building. In June 2007 the World Monuments Fund added the building to its list of the world's "100 most endangered sites". The music video of the Frankie goes to Hollywood single Relax was shot here. Many of these buildings can be seen as part of the annual London Open House event.

There are also surviving music halls outside London, a notable example being the Leeds City Varieties (1865) with a preserved interior. This was used for many years as the setting for the BBC television variety show, based on the music hall genre, The Good Old Days. The Alhambra Theatre, Bradford was built in 1914 for theatre impresario Frank Laidler, and later owned by the Stoll-Moss Empire'. It was restored in 1986, and is a fine example of the late Edwardian style. It is now a receiving theatre for touring productions, and opera.

In Nottingham, the Malt Cross Music Hall retains its restored cast iron interior. It is run as a cafe bar by a Christian charitable trust promoting responsible drinking, also as the location of a safe space late at night and for operating a street pastor service. It is an award winning and popular venue true to its original purpose of providing a venue for up and coming musical acts.

In Northern Ireland, the Grand Opera House (Belfast). Frank Matcham 1895, was preserved and restored in the 1980s. The Gaiety Theatre, Isle of Man is another Matcham design from 1900 that remains in use after an extensive restoration programme in the 1970s. In Glasgow, the Britannia Music Hall (1857), by architects Thomas Gildard and H.M. McFarlane remains standing, with much of the theatre intact but in a poor state having closed in 1938. There is a preservation trust attempting to rescue the theatre.

One of the few fully functional music hall entertainments, is at the Brick Lane Music Hall in a former church in North Woolwich. The Players' Theatre Club is another group performing a Victorian style Music Hall show at a variety of venues and The Music Hall Guild of Great Britain and America stage music hall-style entertainments.

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