‘Hippo’ is a Theatre Royal!

Pendle Hippodrome
Lord Shuttleworth presents the award at County Hall, watched by the Hippodrome team and The Mayor of Pendle, Councillor Nawaz Ahmed

Volunteers at Pendle Hippodrome Theatre were thrilled to receive the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award given to volunteer groups in the United Kingdom.

A group of ‘Hippo’ stalwarts went to County Hall in Preston to see their chairman Kevin Mason receive the award from The Queen’s representative, The Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire, Lord Shuttleworth.

The Queen’s Award has an equivalent status for voluntary groups as the MBE has for individuals, and the English Crystal and signed certificate by Her Majesty The Queen are now proudly displayed in the foyer of the theatre in New Market Street, Colne.

The Hippodrome opened in 1914 as a variety theatre and cinema, and was turned over to bingo in the 1960s. It was in a sad state when it closed in 1978, and was bought by three local operatic societies and painstakingly repaired and restored by volunteers to its Edwardian glory.

It was opened to the public in 1986 and has been run on an entirely voluntary basis ever since. It has no outside funding and no paid staff.

The three operatic societies who originally bought the Hippodrome have over the years merged into Pendle Hippodrome Theatre Company. The theatre building is a limited company and is administered by a board of directors, also all volunteers, on a hire-only basis.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is given for outstanding achievement by groups of volunteers who regularly devote their time to helping others in the community, and improving the quality of life and opportunity for others. It was created to mark the Golden Jubilee in 2002 and to recognise the outstanding contributions that volunteers make to local communities.

The Hippodrome was nominated for the award by Andrew Stephenson, Pendle’s MP, and nominationswere assessed by a regional committee before being passed to a national committee for final selection and recommendation to The Queen. The award was actually presented twice. Several weeks before the presentation at County Hall, Lord Shuttleworth agreed to present the awards at the Annual Stage Awards Night at the Hippodrome, and before the proceedings began he presented the Queen’s Award so the audience and volunteers could celebrate the occasion. Then it was handed back to Lord Shuttleworth for the official presentation in July.

The Hippodrome was earlier invited to send a representative to Buckingham Palace Garden Party, and Kevin Mason and his wife Gillian went on 28 May.

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