THE self-styled ‘Black Country wench’ who campaigned to save Dudley Hippodrome says she is not looking forward to the town’s future.

Comedian Marlene Watson has spent a lifetime making the most of her heritage to entertain thousands of people but her latest performance left her feeling disillusioned.

After speaking at the public inquiry into plans for a new university in Dudley, which will be built on the site of the now-demolished Hippodrome, Marlene hit out at the loss of the theatre.

She said: “The public now feel browbeaten, they have seen what’s happened to Dudley and they couldn’t do anything about it.

“It’s happened before their very eyes, the market, the police station, things done against public opinion.”

The entertainer, who was close friends with the late Tommy Mundon and many other Black Country entertainers, accepts authorities followed the letter of the law but says that is not enough.

She said: “They have done things they should, public opinions and consultations, it has meant nothing; as yet Dudley people can’t get excited about anything.

“If they could have seen a newly-designed Dudley Hippodrome with big shows and a Metro stop right outside, would they have been excited about it? Would they have brought their families? They certainly would have.”

Dudley Council says there is a planned £1bn of investment going into the borough including a new £4m upgrade for leisure in Dudley town centre.

In March the authority announced the former Dudley Museum would become a hospitality and leisure venue while an office block next to the Old Glasshouse restaurant in Priory Street is to be converted into a boutique hotel.

Dudley Council leader, Councillor Patrick Harley, said: “The Dudley Entertainment Quarter will be a fantastic addition to Dudley town centre’s regeneration programme and people will be pleased to see how the work is retaining and enhancing some of the original features of two historic buildings.”

The Hippodrome closed for good in 2009 and was demolished in 2023 after a long campaign to save it and four attempts to bring it back to life as an entertainment venue all failed.

Mrs Watson accepts the theatre is gone and welcomed the chance to air her views at the public inquiry on May 14.

She said: “My passion and my respect for Dudley – I loved the town – I’m afraid it’s gone. I feel powerless now, we can’t undo any of their wrongdoing so I’m afraid I’m not looking much to the future of Dudley and all those pie in the sky things.

“You shouldn’t look back but I have more pleasure in looking back at Dudley than I have looking forward. 

“Let’s hope I am wrong and something wonderful will happen but, I don’t know.”