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TV star Alice backs Burnley’s Empire Theatre

Photo of the Week: Inside the remains of The Empire Theatre, Burnley - Mark Salmon

Photo of the Week: Inside the remains of The Empire Theatre, Burnley - Mark Salmon

Television star Alice Barry has demanded the show must go on for a neglected and forgotten Burnley theatre.

The popular star of “Shameless” and “Benidorm” contacted the Express after we published a photo of the former Empire Theatre in Cow Lane in its current dilapidated state – and has promised to support anyone willing to bring it back to use.

The photo, taken by Mark Salmon, showed the late Victorian grandeur of the stage, circle and stalls, albeit masked by years of neglect.

Alice, who started her acting career as an extra, said: “I used to love going to the theatres in Burnley as a child.

“My parents used to take me to the Victoria and Palace but I also went in the Empire.

“When I saw the photo of the Empire it made me very sad. It is still a very impressive building, although sadly the Burnley public of today aren’t getting to see it.

“I think it has a lot of potential, it still looks beautiful after all these years, but obviously needs some tender loving care.

“Burnley is short of old traditional theatres so it would be wonderful if someone could breathe some life into the Empire. There is a lovely square at the back outside the theatre which would also complement it.

“I would happily help any Burnley people or organisations who would like to get it re-opened.”

In 2011, the Empire was listed on The Theatres’ Trust Buildings At Risk register as one of the top 10 most threatened theatres among 58 in the UK. All were said to be in desperate need of funding and public backing and facing threats from demolition, neglect, local development, funding cuts and closure.

Built in 1894, the Empire was originally run by W.C. Horner of the Victoria Opera House, Burnley.

The Grade II listed building was converted into a cinema in 1938 and a bingo hall in 1982 but closed in 1995.

In 1997 a campaign was launched to save the theatre with a multi-million pound lottery bid backed by Burnley Light Opera Society and Burnley Council, but despite experts declaring its value and appealing for support, the bid faltered and the Empire has been left in its sorry state ever since.

 

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