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Hidden secrets of a once iconic Stockton theatre are revealed
Fascinating, often half-forgotten buildings in our region were opened up to the public as part of the annual Heritage Day season today. (Thursday, September 12). Chris Webber chose to visit the semi-derelict The Globe, once one of the region’s most iconic music venue.
DANK and dimly-lit, we entered the once grand building, trudged past the peeling wall-paper and guano-splattered velvet seats, and gaped as the once hidden, underground theatre was revealed before us.
All 13 of us who had grabbed the chance for a behind-the-scenes peek at the Grade II-listed Globe, on Stockton’s High Street, clambered on to the huge stage where the great names of British music performed until it finally closed as a theatre in 1975.
Several of us took the chance to stand and be photographed in the exact spot where John Lennon, performed on November 22, 1963, the day President Kennedy was shot.
The once iconic building is in the process of being refurbished and, although work has stalled, it’s still hoped it will re-open as the largest indoor performance space between Newcastle and Leeds some time in 2016.
Cavernous and full of atmosphere it was, in truth, hard to see where the £4m already spent by owners, Jomast, on refurbishing the theatre, concert hall and cinema had gone.
Our guide, local historian Barry Jones, soon gave us an idea, pointing to the 10ft point where the water had reached. In one period 350 gallons were being pumped out every hour. More than 100 skip-loads of debris has been removed. Asbestos had to be dealt with along with electricity issues and making the place watertight.
Jomast and Stockton Borough Council are now waiting to see if a £3.9m bid for Heritage Lottery cash will be successful and a decision is expected at the end of the month.
Even if the money is not forthcoming, we’re told the venue, which would hold 2,500 people, more than double that of Middlesbrough Town Hall, will eventually re-open, albeit without much of its art deco grandeur.
Back on the tour, Mr Jones tells stories of great nights which give a clue why the place is held in such affection, how he saw girls thrown themselves at Mick Jagger who had to finish the gig needing stitches.
“You wouldn’t see a band do that these days,” he says before pointing to what is now a gaping hole but was once the orchestra pit.
Sunderland Empire Theatre
“That was where The Shadows wrote Summer Holiday,” he claims.
The historian explains the first Globe was built in 1913 but the current building was opened in 1935. The building, much reduced in glory, held on as a bingo hall for 21 years until to 1996.
Some of Mr Jones’ audience start to reveal their own memories. Gillian Hanrahan, explains her mother was the first projectionist at the cinema from 1937 to 1950.
Her father also worked backstage and Gillian would be sneaked in to see her heroes, including Cliff Richard.
“I just really hope it all starts up again,” she says.
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