Former Palace Theatre still has a role to play
IT IS an iconic symbol of Plymouth's cultural history, a much-loved building which means so much to different generations.
As the Palace Theatre, it was beloved by older people who flocked to see some of the biggest stars on their day tread its boards. It opened in 1898 as a music hall, and played host to giants of stage, screen and radio including Gracie Fields, Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin and Frankie Howerd.
For decades, it was at the centre of the city's entertainment world, standing proudly on Union Street, one of the few Victorian buildings to survive the devastating blitz of World War Two. But times, and tastes, changed and in 1983 the curtain finally came down on the theatre for the last time. That was not the end for this legendary building, and it lived on becoming a wrestling club and bingo hall before being reborn in 1996 as the Dance Academy nightclub, under the ownership of entrepreneur Manoucehr Bahmanzadeh.
Many younger Plymothians look back on it fondly as a legendary venue, which attracted clubbers and DJs from around the country. But in 2006, the music stopped – perhaps forever – when it was raided by police, closed, and Mr Bahmanzadeh jailed. Now he has been released, and expressed his hope that it can be brought back to life. He told us: "All options are open – I want to see it come alive again." Many people across our city, whatever their age, would agree. This wonderful building is currently an eyesore; a sad, neglected shell of a mausoleum in urgent need of repair. It is a tragedy that something that was so vibrant and important to Plymouth is now derelict and overgrown.
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Its neglected state does not present our city in a good light, and there is a huge groundswell of feeling that it must be brought back to life – whatever it ultimately becomes. It is a landmark with amazing history, and maybe its rebirth could help lead a revival of Union Street and bring fresh enjoyment to new generations. Whatever its past, we believe it still has a vital role to play in Plymouth's future.