One of Brighton’s hidden treasures is the old Hippodrome theatre tucked away from the crowds in Middle Street.

The exterior is not all that remarkable and I do not even know who the architect was when it was designed for entertainment in 1897.

But the interior, created in 1901, is a work of art by the foremost theatre designer of his generation, Frank Matcham.

The Hippodrome, like many other Brighton theatres, has had a chequered history, being used over the years as a circus, concert hall, variety centre and ice rink.

Laurence Olivier made his acting debut there and fell flat on his face when he appeared on stage. Brighton’s own Max Miller often topped the bill.

Daisy and Violet Hilton, the Brighton-born Siamese twins who were briefly the best paid entertainers in the world, also appeared there.

After the Second World War, it began to decline as variety withered and many people preferred to stay at home watching television.

But the Hippodrome had a brief revival in the 1960s when thousands of youngsters packed it to watch The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

Soon after that it closed and was taken over as a bingo hall by Mecca, who said they would use it for live performances if there was a demand for them. There never was.

As bingo in turn declined, the Hippodrome closed completely and it has been empty since 2007. It has been placed at the top of an ‘at risk’ register by the Theatres Trust.

It is now owned by an investment trust based in Jersey which does not give me confidence in restoration or reopening.

A Brighton-based firm of architects has drawn up plans to convert the building into an eight-screen cinema centre and restaurant.

It will be hard to preserve much of Matcham’s masterpiece if this occurs and there are moves to return it to use as a live venue.

Gavin Henderson, who runs the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, is prepared to form a trust to preserve it if there is interest from others.

There could be few better people to do this than Mr Henderson, who was an inspirational director of the Brighton Festival.

But the signs are not bright. Mr Henderson tried to save the nearby Essoldo in North Street, formerly the Imperial Theatre, but it was demolished, to be replaced with a hideous block of shops.

There were also moves to restore the old Astoria in Gloucester Place but current plans are to pull it down as conversion would not be viable.

Brighton boasts the biggest arts festival in England and hosts a great deal of live entertainment at other times of the year.

It already has the 900-seat Theatre Royal, the handsome Dome which can take almost 2,000 and the 5,000-seat Brighton Centre.

But what it lacks is a large, flexible venue that could stage musicals, ballet and opera as well as plays and concerts.

The Hippodrome is a listed building which reduces the scope for remodelling its splendid interior. Investors are likely to be wary, thinking that they will not see a return on their money for many years.

Yet there is always hope when a man who really loves Brighton is involved, such as Gavin Henderson, who has both imagination and good contacts.

There have been other examples elsewhere of entertainments centres being rescued by trusts, the nearest being less than 50 miles away at the King’s in Southsea.

In the Hampshire resort, local people formed a trust with the aid of the city council. The 1,600-seat theatre attracts some big musicals like Chicago and Grease, which are hard to stage successfully in Brighton.

Large sums have been raised for restoration and the trust has the backing of the local community.

Restoring the Hippodrome would be a bigger and more complicated business but almost anyone who has looked at the interior, as I have, will be anxious to see it done.

Brighton has lost more than a score of entertainments venues over the years, ranging from the Regent cinema to the Sports Stadium.

It simply cannot afford to lose any more and this is almost the last of its kind remaining in the resort.

Forming a trust would give new hope for the Hippodrome.