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Park Palace Ponies puts city kids in the saddle

Words:
Hugh Pearman

A surreal quality of unexpected juxtaposition characterises Park Palace Ponies, an inner city riding school in a derelict theatre

Not as ad-hoc as it seems - here is the plan.
Not as ad-hoc as it seems - here is the plan. Credit: HSA

Building: Park Palace Ponies
Location: Liverpool
Architect: Harrison Stringfellow
Building type: Equestrian centre

 

Park Palace Ponies is a riding school for the urban youth of south Liverpool – the Dingle area and beyond – which has a genuinely surreal quality of unexpected juxtaposition. It is inside a derelict music hall-turned-cinema.

It’s not posh. The whole business of ponies – their welfare, their tackle, their grooming, the organisation of them as much as the riding and the companionship of them – together presents a varied proposition that urban kids seldom have a chance to experience.  

  • Enlightened reuse - a kids riding school in a derelict music hall in Dingle.
    Enlightened reuse - a kids riding school in a derelict music hall in Dingle. Credit: HSA
  • Outside are second-hand stables and an office in a shipping container.
    Outside are second-hand stables and an office in a shipping container. Credit: HSA
  • Music hall turned cinema tunred factory turned equestrian centre.
    Music hall turned cinema tunred factory turned equestrian centre. Credit: HSA
  • Community event to promote the concept briefly turned it back into a cinema.
    Community event to promote the concept briefly turned it back into a cinema. Credit: HSA
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The threatened 1893 theatre was just big enough to make a covered riding school for children, with stables and a shipping-container office placed in a yard outside: the theatre itself, complete with patch-repaired ornamental ceiling and proscenium arch of Corinthian columns and broken pediment, is unheated and draughty but dry. Harrison Stringfellow put together a strategy which includes five acres of grazing on wasteland sites nearby plus an arrangement with local allotment holders to use the manure produced.

Started as a 12-month trial funded by the British Equestrian Foundation, the venture has been a considerable success and could well become permanent and more formalised. But for now, as one of the MacEwen judges, Hana Loftus of HAT Projects, put it: ‘They’ve done the minimum to the building to make it do what it needs to do – there’s no gestural anything.’ And all the better for that.


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