Appeal to save the world’s oldest music hall in Glasgow

GV of the Brittania Panoptican music halls, Trongate Glasgow.

GV of the Brittania Panoptican music halls, Trongate Glasgow.

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An appeal has been launched to save the world’s oldest music hall from “disappearing forever”.

The historic building which saw Stan Laurel make his stage debut is in desperate need of essential repairs.

An appeal has been launched to save the worlds oldest music hall from disappearing forever.

An appeal has been launched to save the worlds oldest music hall from disappearing forever.

And campaigners have warned that without funding, the near 160-year-old Britannia Panopticon music hall in Glasgow could be lost forever.

The Friends of Britannia Panopticon Music Hall Trust, which runs the venue, hopes to buy it from the Mitchell family, who currently own the building.

The trust has relied on grant funding from the likes of Historic Scotland and the Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as investment from the Mitchells, who also own an amusement arcade on the ground floor of the building.

The hall, which was first opened in the 1850s, also needs a new heavy-duty power supply system that can cope with the demands of a 120-capacity auditorium.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. (Laurel made his stage debut at the Panopticon).

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. (Laurel made his stage debut at the Panopticon).

Judith Bowers, a social historian and leader of the campaign that previously saved the building from demolition, says it is crucial to demonstrate the hall is functional.

This would mean that the trust could raise more money and pay a mortgage in the future.

She said: “I’ve stopped it from being burnt to the ground, and demolished, and now I have to ensure its future survival.

“It will disappear forever if we don’t do something about this over the next year or so.

“What we are trying to do is raise money to make it a functional auditorium and then we can prove we can afford a mortgage to buy the building into public ownership which means it will be safe for ever more.

“If you saw the ceiling, it is desperate. The plaster is in danger of coming down if we don’t do something about it soon.

“It has been up there since 1857 and there are big chunks missing at the back of the auditorium which compromises the rest of it.

“Stuff has been screwed in temporarily to make sure it doesn’t collapse.

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“We have done remedial works, to give it some extended time, otherwise it would have gone by now.

“We saved the stage last year, and now we have to save the rest of the auditorium and buy it.”

The building has annual running costs of between £90,000 and £120,000, and a buy-out of the Mitchell family would cost around £400,000.

Judith added: “The Mitchell family can no longer afford to underwrite any of the applications, which is why we want to buy it off them.

“They want to sell to us because it is too much of a liability for them.

“We have been working with them for years and we have a good working relationship with them but they can no longer afford the building.

“They agree with us that it needs to be in public ownership.

“We have relied on donations for 19 years, to have a licence is progress. Yeah, it’s still a building at risk until the plasterwork is done, until the auditorium is dealt with.”

The building has played host to the greats of music hall and early cinema history, including George Leybourne, Harry Lauder and Stan Laurel.

Hollywood legend Cary Grant also appeared on the stage under his real name, Archie Leach.

The theatre was rediscovered in 1997, 59 years after it closed its doors and converted to a workshop.

The building was reopened to the public in 2003.

A number of bands will play a show in Glasgow on Saturday in the hope that thousands of pounds can be raised to save the Panopticon.

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