'Serious damage' caused to interior of Burnley's historic former Empire Theatre during break-in

Serious damage has been caused to a rare piece of Burnley's heritage following a break-in at the former Empire Theatre.

The Burnley Empire Trust, a charitable group of volunteers fighting to save the historic listed building in Cow Lane, reported that the break-in had caused "serious damage" inside.

The break-in and subsequent damage could not have come at a worse time for the group as the Burnley Express reported just last week that it had launched a crowdfunding appeal to help save the theatre as usual funding streams had run dry due to the coronavirus.

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BET also dismissed the possibility that the break-in and damage was the accidental work of so-called "urban explorers", members of the public who regularly break into derelict historic buildings to photograph them for posterity.

A spokesman for Burnley Empire Trust 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.

"We don’t believe that this was the work of over-enthusiastic urban 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 fundraising appeal.

"We have been in touch with the authorities and are appealing for anybody who has seen or knows anything about this to contact Lancashire Police.

"Criminal damage to a listed heritage building is a serious matter. We are unable to comment on this further as this is now a matter for the authorities.

"Finally, just to reassure everyone who has already kindly donated to the Crowdfunder appeal: We won’t be putting the brakes on our efforts anytime soon! Thank you."