Vital milestone works start at Burnley Empire Theatre

The first phase of stabilisation works has started at Burnley's historic Empire Theatre.

Monday, 11th January 2021, 3:51 pm

After years of neglect and recent building condition surveys the Burnley Empire Trust has been striving to ensure that urgent stabilisation works were carried out.

In April last year it was discovered that the decorative ceiling rose had sadly fallen which added to the reality of stabilising the building. Luckily large pieces of the decorative plaster were retrieved with plaster experts confident that it could one day be recreated and thanks to the generosity and kind support from Store First Burnley, the Trust was able to safely store the historic plaster.

With the urgent stabilisation works as a top priority, the Trust took the difficult decision to turn to the public for support and launched an online Crowdfunder in July 2020 with the support of designer Wayne Hemingway MBE and actor Cel Spellman that gained local and national support.

Work beings inside the former Burnley Empire
Work beings inside the former Burnley Empire

BET Trustee and chairman Sophie Gibson said "The public’s response to the fundraising appeal was absolutely phenomenal and especially during such a difficult time for us all. Towards the end of the campaign Cel Spellman helped by adding his support and we’re really grateful that he sees how important the project is for future generations.

"In total the public raised a fantastic £9,672 which was then 100% match funded by Architectural Heritage Fund taking the grand total up to £19,344. Architectural Heritage Fund have also been incredibly supportive of the preservation and reuse of such an important building.

"We can’t say thank you enough for the huge public support and generous donations from people that has made these stabilisation works possible throughout the ground floor of the auditorium and emergency repair works to one of the most vulnerable areas of the roof.

"Sadly, the work was delayed due to the horrific act of vandalism that occurred just days after the online fundraising appeal launched but despite that small bump in the road the building is now on its way to being transformed by the recent stabilisation works thanks to everyone involved and all donations.

Burnley Empire auditorium

"Everyone who made a donation should be very proud of what they have helped a small group of volunteers to achieve."

Before works were able to commence local company, UK Restoration Services volunteered to help the charity by making and installing a new door that was fundamental to ensuring safe access so roof repair works could begin to stop any further water ingress damage to the building.

Alongside the roof repair works the ground floor of the auditorium has now been striped back to the original concrete floor and cleared of any false flooring installed during the Bingo era of the Burnley Empire days which had sadly suffered years of vandalism and criminal damage.

Trustee Steve Hogg who has overseen the works and worked with construction design manager James Woolgrove said: "We’ve been fortunate to have worked with some fantastic companies such as J. W. Asbestos and Demolition Limited who really went above and beyond to get the ground floor works completed before Christmas.

"Now that the first phase of the stabilisation works is almost complete, we hope to keep up the momentum, especially now we have a solid clear ground to work up from in the auditorium which was a fundamental piece of work to complete. All of these emergency works that have been carried out will make the world of difference for enabling further stabilisation and future public access.

"The current work being finished by roofers will be paramount to stopping any further deterioration by the elements in one of the most vulnerable areas of the Empire’s roof. Everyone has worked really hard despite the Winter weather that they’ve had to work around.

"Overall, the integrity of the building is splendid but obviously there’s still a long road ahead but at least we’re on it. This work has helped save the building. Thank you to everyone who donated to our fundraising appeal last year."

Through the Architectural Heritage Fund, Crowdfunder Challenge Grant, BET is still eligible to fundraise a further £5,000 as part of the £15,000 of match funding that was originally awarded.

BET is currently planning another fundraising appeal to help complete the next phase of the ground floor auditorium stabilisation works by dealing with the stage area that was compromised last year by criminal damage resulting in further costly asbestos issues.