Fishermen’s refuge becomes an art centre

Ceramics by Katie Scarlett Howard will feature in the opening exhibition of the Hippodrome in June.
Ceramics by Katie Scarlett Howard will feature in the opening exhibition of the Hippodrome in June.

The transformation of the former Fishermen’s Mission at Eyemouth harbour into the Hippodrome multi-use arts and performance centre is well under way.

The ambitious project is the brainchild of artist Paula Tod and her architect husband Ian who, two years ago, set up a community interest company to realise their vision.

The sail loft became a favoured location for parties and celebrations and the nickname Hippodrome derives, we think, from the musical hall of that name in Yarmouth and the visits to that town by local fishermen for the annual herring drave

Paula Tod

And with internal alterations to the ground floor of a building which began life almost two centuries ago as a granary almost completed, the venue has been scheduled to open to the public in June.

On Friday, Scottish Borders Licensing Board gave its blessing to the venture, granting the Tods’ company a licence to sell alcohol on the premises.

Councillors heard the converted listed building would host music, theatre and poetry performances as well as exhibitions and have a café serving locally-sourced whole foods.

The licence means the café will be able to sell drinks from 11am till midnight daily and until 1am on Friday and Saturday.

Asked why the facility was called the Hippodrome, Mrs Tod told the board: “Soon after the granary was built in the first half of the 19th century, it fell into a variety of fishing trade uses.

“The sail loft became a favoured location for parties and celebrations and the nickname Hippodrome derives, we think, from the musical hall of that name in Yarmouth and the visits to that town by local fishermen for the annual herring drave.”

She explained that in 1987, the listed building had become the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen, before closing in 2012.

Eyemouth was one of five missions closed and Fishermen’s Mission chief executive Captain Dan Conley said at the time: “Sadly Eyemouth was one of the Mission’s more under-used facilities.

After the board meeting, Mr Tod confirmed that the opening exhibition at the venue would, appropriately, be Herring Lasses – a display of ceramics by the acclaimed Denbighshire-based artist Katie Scarlett Howard.

The first theatre performance - A Cinema in South Georgia - also has strong local resonance telling the story of Eyemouth’s whaling pioneers in the South Atlantic.

An autumn programme of music will include concerts by Celtic guitar legend Tony McManus and Scots folk singer Ewan McLennan.

“Details of all events at the Hippodrome will be on our Facebook page and website which will soon be available,” said Mr Tod.