Empire Theatre volunteers describe recent break-in as 'sinister'

The group of volunteers attempting to save Burnley's historic Empire Theatre has described a recent break-in as "a sinister act of vandalism."
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Burnley Empire Trust is urging anyone with any information or knowledge of the incident to contact police.

The Burnley Express recealed recently that unknown culprits had broken into the iconic building on Cow Lane and caused serious damage, just days after volunteers had called for funding help to save the former theatre.

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BET director Shaun McCree said: “We are saddened to have to report that there has been a break-in at the Burnley Empire and that serious damage has been carried out inside.

The former Burnley Empire Theatre in Cow LaneThe former Burnley Empire Theatre in Cow Lane
The former Burnley Empire Theatre in Cow Lane

"We don’t believe that this was the work of over-enthusiastic urbex explorers but a deliberate and coordinated attempt to cause as much criminal damage as possible to the interior and interfere with our ongoing restoration, just days after we launched our fund-raising appeal."

The iconic venue has been named as part of Burnley Council's High Street upgrade and redevelopment of St James Street through the recently announced town centre HAZ project.

Now, just days after launching its latest fund-raising appeal to help towards stabilising the building and creating public access the Trust is left with the mess of recent criminal damage.

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Theatres Trust architecture adviser Claire Appleby said: “It’s devastating to hear of a further break-in at the Empire, a building on our Theatres at Risk Register, particularly after the fantastic amount of support shown by the public around Burnley Empire Trust’s current fund-raising campaign.

"This latest break-in, unlike previous times, appears to be a wanton act of vandalism - a wilful and determined attack on the theatre with the sole purpose of causing damage.

"We continue to stress that not only are people who enter the Empire putting their own lives at risk but that damage caused to a listed building by an unauthorised person, such as in this instance, is classed as criminal damage.

"The police have been informed and the council have also been made aware of the situation. BET continue to work tirelessly towards their goal to restore and reopen the Empire, and the group has received a flood of messages of support from the local community.

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"It is therefore all the more disappointing and deeply saddening to see the selfish acts of a minority hinder the positive progress made on this project. Theatres Trust continue to support and advise BET in their work and look forward to a future when the Empire’s doors can finally be reopened to the people of Burnley.”

BET’s fundraising appeal has already passed a quarter of the £10,000 target in less than a week and they are still asking for the public to support them if they can.

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