Plea for help to save Burnley's iconic former Empire Theatre as funding dries up

The group fighting to preserve Burnley's historic former Empire Theatre need to raise £10,000 by September to help stabilise the building or risk facing further deterioration of the iconic town centre gem.

Due to the COVID-19 crisis all potential funding streams for essential stabilisation works are no longer available to apply for.

The £10,000 that Burnley Empire Trust hope to raise through will be used to kick start the essential enabling works including asbestos removal on the ground floor of the auditorium and repairing parts of the roof; specifically targeting the most vulnerable areas of the Grade II Listed building to stop further water ingress.

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BET Director and chairman Sophie Gibson said: “Unfortunately we’re faced with the unexpected effects to grant funding and are now looking towardsthe public for their support. The stabilisation of the building is paramount for continuing the project as the building urgently needs making watertight before the end of the year.

The stage of the Empire Theatre. Ben Hamlen

"The removal of asbestos is key to creating public access and carrying out the roof repairs to prevent any further deterioration.

"We’re volunteers from the local area who took a leap of faith when we bought the building because we knew that it was the right thing to do for the future of the town and strongly believe that restoring the large venue will support local businesses, the people and bring prosperity to Burnley, but at the moment, the Burnley Empire needs you and your support to kick start that work.

"For anyone who can support us, you’ll be directly helping the future of the Burnley Empire."

Lancashire born supporter Wayne Hemingway MBE from Hemingway Design, said: “I’ve been supporting the Burnley Empire and the people to rescue it for a number of years. When Sophie Gibson first approached me about this, I saw a new generation looking at a magnificent old building that my generation and other generations have allowed to get into this state.

"Burnley needs this, all towns do, and that’s the reason why I got involved. Some of the greatest things that have been done in urban design are when you take a brilliant building with the soul of the history that runs through it and then you repurpose it, add modern interventions and you do new things inside.

"When you see the actual building itself, you can’t help but be moved by the possibilities about how it could be a place for future generations to enjoy a multitude of uses."

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Due to the vandalism last year that resulted in asbestos being scattered across the auditorium it has been an ongoing battle for BET to move past this sticking point.

In recent weeks the Trust has successfully been able to fund containing the loose asbestos but now need to move quickly before winter approaches.

To support the next phase and get the project going visit to learn more, donate and to watch BET’s campaign video featuring Wayne Hemingway, Claire Appleby from Theatres Trust and David Wilmore from Theatresearch.