After much consultation, it has been agreed that following the forthcoming refurbishment, the theatre will re-open in 2017 under a new name, Darlington Hippodrome, bringing the theatre full circle back to its origins. How the building became known by its current name, the Civic Theatre, is possibly one of the most unusual periods of its history involving Darlington’s amateur theatre enthusiasts, and is briefly explained here.

Like most provincial towns Darlington has a rich history of community arts, passionate individuals bonding together to create art, live music or theatre simply for the love of it. Organised community theatre in Darlington dates as far back as 1912 with a society calling itself the Darlington Dramatic and Operatic Society performing at Feethams Hall. It wasn’t until 1921 that the newly named Darlington Operatic Society first performed at the New Hippodrome with a production of The Gondoliers by Gilbert and Sullivan, which was to prove the beginning of a long term relationship between the theatre and Darlington Operatic Society that is as strong today as it was back in 1921.

As with all community theatre groups, Darlington Operatic Society has moved through good times and bad, consistently overcoming obstacles through the dedication and perseverance of its members.

In 1958 this determination was put to the test when the privately run New Hippodrome closed for the long term following the expiry of the lease with the then Managing Director E.J. Hinge. After lengthy negotiations with the theatre owners, spear-headed by Darlington Operatic Society member Fred Thompson, it was agreed that the Society would be granted a four year lease of the building with the assistance of a £1500 annual grant from the Town Council. A new holding group called Civic Theatre (Darlington) Ltd. was created which would be responsible for the upkeep and day to day running of the theatre, managed by a committee consisting of several eminent Darlington figures as well as members of the Operatic Society, ensuring the theatre was saved from permanent closure and possible demolition.

Members of Darlington Operatic Society continued to work on the theatre, getting vital structural work carried out throughout the building, but only so much could be done by volunteers working in their spare time. The Operatic Society continued to use the theatre as its venue, by now presenting two musicals a year, including productions of The Merry Widow, Oklahoma and White Horse Inn.

In 1961 several meetings took place between Darlington Operatic Society and Civic Theatre (Darlington) well as the Town Council to discuss the future running and funding of the theatre which resulted in the two committees merging their finances, paying £2,500 on top of £5,500 from the Town Council to purchase the theatre outright.

Civic Theatre(Darlington) Ltd. immediately dissolved handing over the running of the newly named Civic Theatre Darlington to the Town Council. The name was changed in 1972 to the less clumsy Darlington Civic Theatre.