I love old theatres. There is nothing quite like live entertainment on a stage, and the North East of England surprisingly has its fair share of first class entertainment venues. It can boast a few brand new venues aswell, but it’s the old Victorian and Edwardian theatres in particular that rock my boat.
The City Hall was built in 1927 alongside the City Pool in the centre of Newcastle. The City Pool has sadly been mothballed for a while, and the City Halls future is in doubt as it also relies on subsidies from the City Council.
I recently visited the City Hall for a show called “Plates, Mates & Automobiles” starring TV Chef James Martin.
My wife loved it, but then she would wouldn’t she, because in common with a host of ladies in her age group, she is somewhat enamored by the portly Yorkshire man.
The other gentlemen in the audience, who were no doubt there under duress like me, will probably agree that the show was 98% plates, 1% mates and 1% automobiles.
I love my wife, but as the tickets cost £38 to watch a show that I can watch on TV on Saturday mornings for free, there was no way I was going to pay £10 for a programme, and happily she agreed.
But enough about the show. Despite the small entrance, the theatre is deceptively large and can accommodate over 2000 people on two levels.
As an aside it also has an unusually large Gentlemans Toilet, which sadly lacked a sufficient number of hand driers to match its size!
It can probably tell a few stories over the years. The theater that is. Not the Gents Toilet.
Just a year after it was built, to create the city’s first dedicated concert venue, a Harrison and Harrison Organ was built.
A concert instrument, as against a cathedral specification, it was used for choral and instrumental concerts, and organ recitals. It has 4,274 pipes, some rare stops, and is considered as the bees knees among organs. Unfortunately it is currently in a poor state of repair, and is probably the last and largest example of a Harrison tubular pneumatic anywhere, as unlike most of its kind, it has not been converted in any way.
The British Institute of Organ Studies awarded it a Grade 1 Historic Organ Certificate in 2003 and it is classified as part of the City Halls Grade 2 listed status.
These days the City Hall is mainly used for rock and pop concerts, classical recitals and comedy shows.
It is a wonderful facility for the folk of Newcastle, and I cannot understand why it can’t stand on it’s own feet without public funding.
It would be very sad day indeed if it has to close.