Burnley Empire Trust hoping to put the listed Burnley theatre back into community use
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The Burnley Empire Trust (BET) are a small group of volunteers who are committed to restoring and reopening the Burnley Empire for community use.
Earlier this year they commissioned a Stage House Viability Study thanks to the help and support of Architectural Heritage Fund to assess the potential of returning part of the building, specifically the stage house, back to public use.
The results of the study outlined an approach that would create a meantime use for part of the building which would still be in line with the longer-term aspiration of returning the whole venue back to public use.
David Wilmore from TheatreSearch who carried out part of the stage house Viablity Study said: “To place the Burnley Empire Theatre in both architectural and theatrical perspective it is important to understand how this building sits in both a regional and national context.
“Remaining historic theatres are few, good ones are rare, and the erosion of the nation’s theatre buildings has only slowed down during the last ten years.
“Prior to this the wholesale demolition and destruction of theatre buildings was seen almost as an essential part of inner city renewal. Today the opposite view is the reality.”
Over the past year, the stage house has undergone major clear-out works to enable safe access but to move onto the next stage of the project BET need to carry out essential roof repairs to make the area wind and watertight and prevent pigeons from entering the building.
BET recently celebrated a huge milestone by opening the Burnley Empire and welcoming the public for the first time since 1995, during Heritage Open Days with limited access due to the stage house condition.
BET chair Sophie Gibson said: “We’re turning to the public once again to ask if you can help make a difference to the building by helping us raise for the roof and donate towards essential roof repairs to further stabilise the building and move the project forward.
“To date we've raised and spent around £350,000 on all works towards restoration and reuse by carrying out significant stabilisation works.
“This includes major ground floor clear out works to enable access to contain and decontaminate the asbestos, multiple building condition and structural surveys, various fixes throughout the roof and major clear out works of the Stage House including the removal of dangerous fixtures hanging from the proscenium arch left behind from the Bingo era.
“These works have been funded through Burnley's High Street Heritage Action Zone funds, Shared Prosperity Fund and Historic England over the past three years including public donations.
“Earlier this year we carried out a Stage House Viability Study with the support of Architectural Heritage Fund that outlined a phased approach to restoration focusing on the stage house and putting it back into public use as a found meanwhile space.
“This is why we are now focusing on getting the stage area wind and watertight so we can move forward with our new Crowdfunder campaign with a target of £35,000. If you would like to donate and are able to donate, please search for the fundraiser by searching Burnley Empire on Crowdfunder.co.uk.
“As always we are forever grateful of the support and donations we receive. Our next steps are to focus on the stage house and bring that area of the building back to life first alongside other continuous improvements throughout the historic building and have been working over the past three weeks with Jubb Clews to carry out survey works throughout the stage house including reaching the fly towers for the first time thanks to Theatres Trust, Resilient Theatres: Resilient Communities Fund Programme.
“We're constantly gaining significant progress with the restoration including our biggest milestone yet of welcoming the public inside the Empire for the first time since 1995 for Heritage Open Days.
“Although access was limited due to the condition of the stage house the events were a great success with people finally able to see Bertie Crewe's glorious decorative plasterwork and feel the atmosphere of the building and project!
“Next year is the 130th anniversary of the opening of the Empire and if we can keep on track, raise funds for the rood and secure more funds to continue then who knows what else we'll see on that stage as soon as next year.
“Not only does fundraising help to make a major difference to the building but it also highlights the amount of support that there is for the restoration of this unique building and it really is one of a kind with not many other historic venues like it or left to save.
“There's only four volunteers behind this restoration and we're always grateful for any donations as it all makes a difference.”
BET’s next milestone will be to carry out the essential roof repairs above the stage to further stabilise the Empire and move the project forward which will inevitably create public access further inside the Grade II Listed venue and especially in time for the Empire’s 130th opening anniversary next year.
The restoration project is not just about restoring beautiful architecture; this is about building a new space that through its work will support local businesses and people and bring prosperity to Burnley, both in economic and social terms.
Please give what you can as all donations make a difference to the building and make sure you're following
Burnley Empire Trust’s progress @BurnleyEmpire on Facebook, Instagram and X (formerly known asTwitter).
By supporting the Crowdfunder appeal to raise for the roof you will be directly helping to save the iconic building and helping towards reopening the Burnley Empire.
The online fundraiser ends on November 5th at 9pm.
Link to Crowdfunder: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/raise-for-the-roof