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History & heritage
10 Aug 2020 - Elliott Brown
Did you know?

Southside Theatres: The Alexandra

The Alexandra Theatre located in the Southside area of Birmingham. The main entrance is on Suffolk Street Queensway, running along Suffolk Place. The original building, opened in 1901 is on Station Street and John Bright Street. The main entrance was originally on John Bright Street, but was relocated to Suffolk Street Queensway in the late 1960s. This was rebuilt in 2018.

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Southside Theatres: The Alexandra





The Alexandra Theatre located in the Southside area of Birmingham. The main entrance is on Suffolk Street Queensway, running along Suffolk Place. The original building, opened in 1901 is on Station Street and John Bright Street. The main entrance was originally on John Bright Street, but was relocated to Suffolk Street Queensway in the late 1960s. This was rebuilt in 2018.


The Alexandra Theatre

For another theatre post in Southside currently closed due to the pandemic go to the Birmingham Hippodrome.

The Alexandra Theatre is the second main theatre in Southside Birmingham. Located on Suffolk Street Queensway (the current main entrance is not too far from Holloway Circus). It is also on Suffolk Place, John Bright Street (formerly the main entrance) and up Station Street.

The theatre has gone by many names over the years. Either known as The Alexandra, The Alex or more recently the New Alexandra Theatre (before going back to just The Alexandra Theatre).

Construction of the theatre began in 1900 and it opened in 1901. The main entrance was originally on John Bright Street. The original architects was Owen & Ward and was built by William Coutts. It's original name was the Lyceum Theatre. After low ticket sales, it was sold in 1902 to Lester Collingwood and renamed to the Alexandra Theatre. Collingwood died in road traffic accident in 1910 and he was replaced by Leon Salberg, who died in his office at the theatre in 1938. In 1935 the theatre was rebuilt in the Art Deco style to a design by Roland Satchwell. After Leon Salberg's death, the running of the theatre was taken over by Derek Salberg. The Salberg family ran the theatre from 1911 until 1977.

The main entrance was relocated to Suffolk Street Queensway with a concrete bridge. This was built from 1967-69 from a design by the John Madin Design Group. The Art Deco interior of Satchwell was refurbished in 1992 by the Seymour Harris Partnership.

In the last 25 years the ownership of the theatre has changed hands a few times. In 1995 it was taken over by the Apollo Leisure Group. Who brought many West End productions to The Alex. In 1999 they were bought by SFX Entertainment. In 2001 they merged with Clear Channel Entertainment. In 2006 it was taken over by Live Nation, then in 2011 it was taken over by Ambassador Theatre Group who renamed the theatre New Alexandra Theatre after a minor refurbishment. The main entrance on Suffolk Street Queensway was rebuilt and modernised in 2018 and the theatre was renamed back to The Alexandra Theatre.

 

Live Nation: The Alexandra Theatre

My earliest photos of The Alexandra was taken from Suffolk Street Queensway during April 2009. Island Bar was next door to the right.

In February 2010, I got photos from Suffolk Place, John Bright Street and Station Street. Main entrance is on Suffolk Street Queensway. Then over the bridge. At the time the theatre was showing Porridge starring Shaun Williamson as Fletcher (originally played on TV by the late Ronnie Barker). You could see the former main entrance on John Bright Street (from 1901 until the late 1960s).

New Alexandra Theatre

Under new ownership. And now called New Alexandra Theatre as seen in January 2011. A World Class Theatre. At the time the theatre was being used by Britain's Got Talent for auditions. Main entrance building seen on Suffolk Place and opposite from Suffolk Street Queensway.

My only nightshot of the New Alexandra Theatre was taken during December 2012, when the theatre had 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton on at the time.

In May 2017 the New Alexandra Theatre was advertising Arthur Miller's Crucible, from the 5th to 10th June 2017.

The Birmingham Weekender was held during September 2017. And there was inflatable Sky Dancers on the roof of the New Alex. This was held over the weekend from the 22nd to 24th September 2017. Meanwhile the theatre was advertising Cilla The Musical and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The Alexandra Theatre 2018 refurb to present

In August 2018, scaffolding went up on the main entrance building on Suffolk Street Queensway of what was then the New Alexandra Theatre. Boogie Nights The 70s Musical was to be shown in the theatre from the 22nd to the 25th August 2018. Scaffolding by Gorilla Scaffolding.

By September 2018 they had stripped the old late 1960s concrete facade off. And was all these exposed wooden boards at the front.

In October 2018 you could already see the new facade on the Suffolk Street Queensway entrance, and it had gone back to The Alexandra name. They also had a digital billboard advertising what they had one. Such as David Walliams Awful Auntie and Benidorm Live.

Another look in December 2018 from Suffolk Place and John Bright Street. They had recladded the late 1960's building by John Madin. So not as much exposed concrete as there had been for almost 50 years. There was also shiny new red steps at the Suffolk Street Queensway main entrance. Beetham Tower and one of The Sentinels towers behind.

One of my last photos of 103 Colmore Row before lockdown was above The Alexandra Theatre on Suffolk Street Queensway during early March 2020. I wouldn't see the theatre again until the beginning of August 2020.

Closed since the lockdown began in late March 2020. As of August 2020, The Alexandra Theatre remains closed due to the pandemic. It is unknown when the theatre will be able to reopen, or even if they will be able to do social distancing with less seats available. The Shows Will Go On. Suffolk Street Queensway main entrance, then views a week later from Station Street, John Bright Street and Suffolk Place.

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Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Thanks for all the followers.

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60 passion points
History & heritage
06 Aug 2020 - Elliott Brown
Did you know?

Southside Theatres: Birmingham Hippodrome

The Birmingham Hippodrome is located on Hurst Street in Southside (part of the Chinese Quarter). It is also up Inge Street and near the Back to Backs. The theatre is home to the Birmingham Royal Ballet. There has been a theatre on this site since 1895. There has been several redevelopments since. The last one in 2001. The Birmingham Christmas Pantomine usually takes place here.

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Southside Theatres: Birmingham Hippodrome





The Birmingham Hippodrome is located on Hurst Street in Southside (part of the Chinese Quarter). It is also up Inge Street and near the Back to Backs. The theatre is home to the Birmingham Royal Ballet. There has been a theatre on this site since 1895. There has been several redevelopments since. The last one in 2001. The Birmingham Christmas Pantomine usually takes place here.


BIRMINGHAM HIPPODROME

Lets support Birmingham's theatres during this troubling time of closure. In Southside there is the Birmingham Hippodrome (on Hurst Street), The Alexandra Theatre (on Suffolk Street Queensway and John Bright Street) and The Old REP Theatre (on Station Street).

Here though we will take a look at the Birmingham Hippodrome. Home of the world famous Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Assembly rooms was the first venue to be built on the site of the Hippodrome in 1895. It was redesigned in 1899 by local architect F. W. Lloyd. A stage and a circus was added with a Moorish tower (removed in 1963). It had the name the "Tower of Varieties". After this failed, it was rebuilt as a normal variety theatre in 1900 as the "Tivoli".  It got the name "The Hippodrome" for the first time in October 1903 under the ownership of Thomas Barrasford (it has previously been named the "Tower Theatre"). The current neo-classical auditorium which was designed to seat 1,900 people, was built in 1924 by Burdwood and Mitchell. After Smallbrook Queensway was built, the entrance building and tower was demolished in 1963.

For a time it was renamed as the "Birmingham Theatre". The plain façade was refaced in the 1980s with mock-Victorian plasterwork. Central TV spent the '80s using the Hippodrome for the ITV Talent Show New Faces.

The exterior was last rebuilt in 2001 by Associated Architects with Law and Dunbar-Nasmith, with a new glass façade and accommodation for the Birmingham Royal Ballet.  There will be another redevelopment of the façade to be completed in 2021 by AHMM Architects.

The BRB has been based in Birmingham since 1990 at the Birmingham Hippodrome. Having been founded in 1946 as the Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet in London. Every Christmas season, the BRB perform Swan Lake at the Hippodrome. A production of Sir Peter Wright, the Director Laurete of the BRB. Then there is the annual Christmas Pantomime, where a variety of celebrities come to Birmingham to perform them.

 

Some of my earliest photos of the Birmingham Hippodrome from Hurst Street were taken in June 2009.

Seen during April 2012 on the main entrance doors from Hurst Street was these labels for the NEW STAGE APPEAL. At the time the Hippodrome was showing Oliver!

In December 2012, I saw this pair in Angel Wings. It was when Cinderella was on (as performed by the Birmingham Royal Ballet), and they welcomed theatre goers at the time.

Direct from the West End was Disney's The Lion King. Seen during August 2013. This touring West End show would be at the Hippodrome until the 28th September 2013.

"When in Rome do what the Romans do". Also in August 2013 was the annual Summer in Southside, which used to be held outside of the Hippodrome and down Hurst Street and in The Arcadian every summer. It was a free event held by Birmingham Hippodrome Outdoors.

Christmas decorations and Christmas trees lit up after dark at the Birmingham Hippodrome during December 2013. At the time the panto being held here was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs staring Gok Wan.

Wicked was going to be at the Birmingham Hippodrome from the 9th July until the 6th September 2014. I saw this poster during July 2014. While I've not seen Wicked in Birmingham, I did once see it in London's West End at the Apollo Victoria during October 2012. It was amazing! (it was the last time I went to see a West End show).

Summer in Southside seen during August 2014. Members of the Team in the white t-shirts. With the pointy fingers and at the Info stalls.

Near the end of December 2018, saw some Chinese lantern style Christmas lights hanging from trees on Hurst Street, not far from the Hippodrome. It was nice to see. Southside always makes the area look pretty at night.

In July 2020, for my first walk around Southside since the lockdown began (4 to 5 months after I was last here). I took a few photos of the Hippodrome from Hurst Street. Obviously they have been closed since the end of March 2020. And it is not known when it will be safe for them to reopen. Social distancing in the theatre will be hard, and the theatre may have to make people redundant sadly. Meanwhile the Southside BID gives a huge THANK YOU to all keyworkers and to the NHS.

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Thanks for all the followers.

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40 passion points
Travel & tourism
29 Jul 2020 - Elliott Brown
Inspiration

The Present at Thinktank

The first area you pass through at Thinktank would be The Present on Level 2. You enter the museum from the top floor of Millennium Point. Today it is called "Investigate the Present". Usually lots of families and children here having fun (back when they were open). Several galleries up here include: Things about me, Wild life, Medicine matters and The Street.

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The Present at Thinktank





The first area you pass through at Thinktank would be The Present on Level 2. You enter the museum from the top floor of Millennium Point. Today it is called "Investigate the Present". Usually lots of families and children here having fun (back when they were open). Several galleries up here include: Things about me, Wild life, Medicine matters and The Street.


The Present at Thinktank

Located on Level 2 of Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum at Millennium Point in Eastside is what is now called Investigate the Present. On my fist visit with my camera in April 2013, this area was quite busy with lots of families and their kids learning about all kinds of things up here. The second visit with my camera a year later in April 2014, it wasn't as busy so got to have a proper look this time.

 

Description below (from the official Thinktank website) of the 5 galleries in The Present:

 

Five fascinating galleries that uncover the science all around us. Here you can be a forensic detective, find out who bit the Jurassic crocodile, and explore your senses with a giant tongue.

The galleries are located on Level 2.

 

Things About Me Gallery

This unique gallery gives kids the chance to find out more about how our bodies work. Take an unusual journey into the human body and get to grips with your muscles, guts and taste buds in an amazing exploration of some basic bodily functions. Meet the TAM gang and go supermarket shopping or join them for an aerobics work out.

 

Wild Life Gallery

Explore the diversity of life and the range of habitats found on Earth. There are many animals including insects, birds and mammals, together with fossils and sensational creatures such as Giant Deer, a Jurassic Crocodile and Triceratops skull!



Family Packs

Borrow for free one of our 'Wildlife' activity packs, designed to help you explore our museums. Suitable for 3 - 8 year olds.



Medicine Matters Gallery

The Medicine Matters Gallery is all about modern medicine and medical breakthroughs. Learn about the role of Birmingham scientists in recent medical advances.

 

The Street Gallery

Uncover the astonishing science and technology underlying everyday life in a walk down The Street.

 

Things About Me

All about parts of the human body.

The googly sign of the Things About Me. Seen during the April 2013 visit.

Your mouth, tounge and teeth.

What happens to food when it goes down your throat. Twist to draw air into the body and watch what happens to the epiglottis.

Lungs and the rib cage.

Your intestines. Can you squeeze them back in, it's a tight fit.

A close up look at the small intestine. Also your liver.

How is your food digested? Seen in the Things About Me during the April 2014 visit.

All about your beating heart. Interactive displays. Press the buttons.

How do your brain and senses work? Showing the links from your hands, and your eyes and ears.

All about your digestive system. Interact with those levers and turn the displays in front of you.

Food on the table on your plate.

Wild Life

Technically the bones and stuffed animals were found years ago, but scientists using them to learn about animals in the natural world.

Triceratops skull seen during the April 2013 visit. It was found in Montana, USA in 1908. It came to Birmingham in 1958.

A Giant Deer skeleton. This is a skeleton of an extinct giant deer. Discovered beneath a peat bog in Ireland.

Various stuffed animals (taxidermy). Starting with this Polar Bear. Seen during the April 2014 visit. Ursus martimus from the Arctic.

The main one here was a Blackbuck. Antilope cervicapra from India.

And a Leopard. Panthera pardus.

 

Medicine Matters

Scientific discoveries in Birmingham in this gallery.

Pikachu from Pokemon. First seen in a Nintendo video game back in 1997 on the Game Boy or Game Boy Advance. This was the famous Pokemon with a shock. Was also some Pokemon cartoons around the turn of the century (late 1990s into the early 2000s). Seen during the April 2013 visit.

The language of the genes. Cracking the DNA code. Seen during the April 2014 visit.

The Immunity Maze in Medicine Matters.

The Street

Everyday things on The Street, from roadworks to recycling.

Entrance to The Street. Seen during the April 2014 visit.

Underground services. Water, gas and electricity roadworks. Danger site.

Looking down at the underground services. Gas, water or electricity.

Heading towards the Zebra crossing. This way towards Medicine Matters. Kids' City to the right.

From the Zebra crossing on The Street, you can head over to Medicine Matters or Kids's City.

Yellow digger with coloured balls to pick up. Seen during the April 2013 visit. A boy was on the other side at the controls.

Microwave energy in The Street.

Section about recycling. This machine recycles Aluminium cans.

This machine recycles plastic bottles.

Another view of the recycling machines.

Know your rubbish! Most things you throw away end up in landfill or buried by incinerators. Some items can be saved and recycled and turned into something else.

Kids' City

A mini city for kids and families to learn together. It is off The Street to the right.

Coloured squares and triangles with numbers 1 to 21.

Victorian style lamppost in Kids' City.

More colourful walls, and a "tree". Pictures of foxes on the right.

 

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Thanks for all the followers.

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50 passion points
History & heritage
28 Jul 2020 - Elliott Brown
Did you know?

The Shakespeare Memorial Room at the Library of Birmingham

Since September 2013, the Shakespeare Memorial Room has been located on Level 9 at the Library of Birmingham (near the Skyline Viewpoint). Did you know that it was orginally built in 1882 to house the Shakespeare Library and was designed by John Henry Chamberlain. It was later dismantled and placed in the 1974 Central Library in the School of Music Complex, before it was moved again.

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The Shakespeare Memorial Room at the Library of Birmingham





Since September 2013, the Shakespeare Memorial Room has been located on Level 9 at the Library of Birmingham (near the Skyline Viewpoint). Did you know that it was orginally built in 1882 to house the Shakespeare Library and was designed by John Henry Chamberlain. It was later dismantled and placed in the 1974 Central Library in the School of Music Complex, before it was moved again.


The Shakespeare Memorial Room

On the 28th September 2013, I returned to the Library of Birmingham for my second visit. Also to go up to the floors that I had no time for the first time around. I went up the lift. Some lifts only go has far as Level 7, so you need the lift to Level 9. This would take you to the Skyline Viewpoint and to the Shakespeare Memorial Room. Or you can walk up the stairs.

In the first month of being open, the library was very busy and full of tourists, including many from overseas, so it was packed! There was a lot of people in the Shakespeare Memorial Room on my first visit. Although in the years since, I've had the room to myself.

Click here for my last post on the Library of Birmingham for an interior tour.

Now located inside of the Golden Cylinder at the top of the Library (looks like a Nescafe Gold Blend coffee jar lid).

The Birmingham Shakespeare Memorial Library was founded by George Dawson and some of his closest friends, as they decided that Birmingham should be the home of the greatest collection of Shakespeare's books in the world. They insisted that a room be built for them, and that it should be free and open to everyone.

It was originally created for the much loved (and missed) Victorian Central Library (opened in 1882 and demolished in 1974). The first Central Library of the Victorian era was built in 1866 but was partially destroyed by a fire in 1879. John Henry Chamberlain was given the task to re-build the Library and this included a room to house Birmingham's Shakespeare Library.

Sir Barry Jackson, the founder of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 1913, later became a Director of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon during the late 1940s. There is a gavel given to him in 1936 in the room.

The next Central Library was designed by John Madin and was built from 1969 until 1974. The Shakespeare Memorial Room was dismantled from the old Victorian library and put back together like a jigsaw puzzle. Being placed in what was the School of Music complex. Which included Adrian Boult Hall and the Birmingham Conservatoire. This included the Library Theatre Birmingham and the William Shakespeare Memorial Library and the Library Exhibition Hall.

It remained there until it was moved to the new Library of Birmingham in 2013 (built from 2010 until 2013).

The roof was reconstructed by in plaster by A E Edwards & Co, a Birmingham based company dating to the 1870s.

I'd only ever got close to the outside of the old complex (during 2011), so never stepped foot in the room until it reopened at the Library of Birmingham in 2013.

 

View of the Library Theatre Birmingham on the 2nd January 2011. This concrete bridge was in front of Woktastic. There was also an entrance to Adrian Boult Hall at the time.

What was the entrance to the William Shakespeare Memorial Library and Library Exhibition Hall. I never went in. Wasn't sure if I could open the doors as they were self locking doors. After the last Central Library closed down for good in 2013, I had to wait for the new Library to open before I could see the room for myself for the first time.

On the 31st August 2013, I was getting my last views of the Library of Birmingham before it opened to the public in Centenary Square 3 days later on the 3rd September 2013. This view of the golden cylinder seen from Suffolk Street Queensway. The windows at the front is the Skyline Viewpoint and the Shakespeare Memorial Room is behind that.

On the 21st September 2013 during my first visit to the inside of the Library of Birmingham I took the photo below. At the top of the library on Level 9 is the Shakespeare Memorial Room inside of the Golden Cylinder. Below on Level 7 is the Secret Garden. The view was from the Birmingham Canal Navigations Main Line (near the Turnover Bridge No. 2 close to what was at that point called the National Indoor Arena). Overlooking the ICC Energy Centre.

On the 28th September 2013, arriving at the Shakespeare Memorial Room on Level 9 for the first time. There was a lot of people in there.

Looking up at the ceiling. It is remarkable that this has survived since the late 19th century (unless it is a recreation).

Looking to the wooden panelling on one side of the room.

It more or less looks the same to the right.

And to the left near the door.

One of the corners with the bookcases.

Looking down at the doors of the lower cabinets.

Looking up to the ceiling to the ornate detailing at the top.

Out of the door, and there was comfy red sofas at the Skyline Viewpoint.

Ornate glass windows in the upper cabinet doors.

The views outside the room are spectacular. There is also a couple of busts and plaques / tablets, including ones saved from the old Central Libraries. If the lifts are busy walk down the stairs (if you can).

 

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Thanks for all the followers.

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70 passion points
Art, culture & creativity
22 Jul 2020 - Elliott Brown
Gallery

Forward in Unity by Gent 48 on Meriden Street, Digbeth

While I've been aware of this Gent 48 street art in Digbeth, I wasn't able to travel into the City Centre until I could go on the bus again. With my pass sorted for a 4 week period, I got the bus up to Digbeth, and made my way to Meriden Street. Initally thought it was on Allison Street but couldn't see it there. Behind an old snooker club. Gates locked so took from pavement.

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Forward in Unity by Gent 48 on Meriden Street, Digbeth





While I've been aware of this Gent 48 street art in Digbeth, I wasn't able to travel into the City Centre until I could go on the bus again. With my pass sorted for a 4 week period, I got the bus up to Digbeth, and made my way to Meriden Street. Initally thought it was on Allison Street but couldn't see it there. Behind an old snooker club. Gates locked so took from pavement.


Forward in Unity by Gent 48

It has been around 4 months since I was last able to travel to Digbeth. And many things have changed since then. The street art is mostly the same.

Foka Wolf has done a Love NHS heart at the Custard Factory.

Meanwhile famed Birmingham street artist Gent 48 (known for his murals all over Digbeth and Southside) was commissioned to paint Forward in Unity.

It is located on Meriden Street, and an open area just behind a snooker club. Never noticed it before as there used to be billboards on this side.

The gates were locked on Saturday 18th July 2020, so I got these 7 photos (below) from the pavement. I will leave the photos to do the talking.

Thank you NHS and thank you to all keyworkers. Stay alert. Wear a face covering on public transport (and shops from the 24th July 2020).

Also check out Gent 48's murals around the Chinese Quarter and Southside including a recent one in Bath Passage.

 

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Thanks for all the followers.

 

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