Laurel and Hardy

Film comedy legend Stan Laurel’s daughter joins fight to save Midland theatre

The daughter of British comedy star Stan Laurel is backing the fight to save Dudley's Hippodrome theatre - where Laurel and Hardy performed in 1947

The daughter of Hollywood comedy legend Stan Laurel has stepped in to back a campaign to save a Midland theatre threatened with demolition.

Lois Laurel Hawes, 84, said she wants to see the Dudley Hippodrome, where her famous father performed with comic partner Oliver Hardy, brought back into use.

She was born in Beverly Hills to her Cumbrian-born father and mother Lois Neilson in the early days of the Laurel and Hardy partnership.

Now Miss Laurel Hawes has written in support of the Save Dudley Hippodrome campaign, run by retired Halesowen lecturer Geoff Fitzpatrick.

Dudley Council compulsorily purchased the former 1,700-seater Art Deco theatre in October 2010 as part of its redevelopment plans for the Castle Hill area of the town.

It has claimed it cannot find anyone willing or with the business capability to take on the venue, and has submitted plans to demolish it, to make way for a car park.

The 1938 building later became a Gala Bingo hall but closed in 2009.

Dudley Council regeneration chief Coun Shaukat Ali has first promised to wait for the campaign group to develop a full business plan showing how it would raise cash for the project.

The group, which has said building repairs would cost an initial £2 million, has already unveiled a 17-page plan to run the building as a theatre again, but without costings.

Miss Laurel Hawes said: “I have been asked my opinion as to whether the historically famous Dudley Hippodrome should be demolished to make way for a car park.

“I believe it would be a tragedy and a terrible shame if this happened.

‘‘I say that not only because my father and other famous stars appeared there, but it would deprive the area of such a wonderful boost to the community.

“I am very impressed by the exciting plans for the future of the building which can make something the people of Dudley will be really proud of and add something that would attract many visitors to the town.

“Dudley councillors have a great opportunity to make this happen.”

Screen heroes Laurel and Hardy appeared at the Hippodrome on their penultimate tour on May 12, 1947, staying at The Station Hotel opposite.

Others stars backing the campaign include entertainer Ken Dodd and Dudley-born comedian Lenny Henry.

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