Will the show be back on at the Empire?

Inside the former Empire Theatre. Photo Mark Salmon
Inside the former Empire Theatre. Photo Mark Salmon

A partnership study could finally decide if the show will go on for a derelcit but once well-loved Burnley theatre.

The Empire Theatre in Cow Lane has been the subject of passionate pleas from the public and prominent Burnley actors for it to be brought back to its former late-Victorian glory.

Now Burnley Borough Council, the Burnley Empire Theatre Trust and The Theatres Trust have announced they are working together to commission a viability study to establish whether it would be viable to develop the Grade II listed building.

The Burnley Empire Theatre Trust said it remained open to all options to secure the future of the building, and would like to see any regeneration of the building focussed on local jobs and skills creation.

Coun. Bea Foster, the council’s Executive member for Leisure and Culture, said: “At our meeting with the Burnley Empire Theatre Trust and The Theatres Trust, it was acknowledged by everyone that this is the ‘last chance saloon’ for the building.

“As the council is facing significant financial pressures from the Government’s austerity programme, the council will not be in a position to put in any financial resource into capital works on the building, or for any ongoing revenue support.

“However we feel that we should help support this local group and The Theatres Trust in this final opportunity to see if a viable future for the building can be found.”

Burnley Council has agreed to put in £5,000 towards the cost of the study. Further funding is now being sought towards the cost of the full study.

This follows recent discussions, co-ordinated by The Theatres Trust, to secure its future.

Burnley Empire has appeared on the Theatres Trust Theatre Buildings at Risk Register for eight years.

Designed by Burnley architect G. B. Rawcliffe, the building was reconstructed and enlarged in 1911 by renowned theatre architect Bertie Crewe.

The building, which it is believed served as the wartime home to the Old Vic, Sadler’s Wells Ballet and Sadler’s Wells Opera, has now been empty for more than 20 years but, with appropriate investment, could be restored for the local community.

A spokesman for The Theatres Trust, the national advisory public body for theatres, said: “We are delighted to be able to bring together Burnley Council and the Burnley Empire Theatre Trust as we jointly commission a study for the Empire, an important and much-loved local building.”

To contact Burnley Empire Theatre Trust email friendsoftheempire@gmail.com.