Dream to bring iconic Burnley theatre back to life moves a step closer with £10,000 grant

Campaigners who hope to restore Burnley's Empire Theatre to its former glory have received a cash windfall to help take their dream another step forward.

Thursday, 23rd May 2019, 12:41 pm
A 10,000 cash grant will help campaigners to move another step forward with their dream to restore the Empire Theatre in Burnley to its former glory.
A 10,000 cash grant will help campaigners to move another step forward with their dream to restore the Empire Theatre in Burnley to its former glory.

A grant of £10,000 has been awarded to the Burnley Empire Limited company to cover necessary survey works and for professional expertise from a construction, design and management expert commissioned to oversee the project.

The Grade II listed Victorian theatre has been on the Theatres Trust’s Theatres at Risk Register since the list began in 2006.

It is the sole survivor of five variety music halls in Burnley, the only purpose-built Victorian theatre of its kind in East Lancashire, but it has been lying vacant in an increasing state of dereliction since 1995.

It was bought in December, 2018, by the Burnley Empire Limited, a company owned by the Burnley Empire Theatre Trust (BETT) who are working hard to restore the theatre for use.

This grant will fund an essential step on the journey to restoration and revival.

The Empire is one of six theatres to receive funding through the first round of the Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme, run by the national advisory body for theatres. The others are Morecambe Winter Gardens, Peterborough New Theatre, Salford Victoria Theatre, Spilsby Theatre and Swindon Mechanics Institute.

The programme is designed to support theatres on the Theatres Trust’s Theatres at Risk Register to commission expert advice and acquire the skills and knowledge to push forward capital projects to help save their theatres.

Sophie Gibson, Burnley Empire Ltd Director said: “This is fantastic news for the Burnley Empire and will no doubt help to achieve further vital progress.

"Thanks to this grant awarded by Theatres Trust we can now commission further professional expertise and carry out necessary survey work needed. Enabling works like these are incredibly important for the development of the project.

"We look forward to continuing the journey towards restoration and reuse as well as announcing scheduled events for this year.

Musician, actor and Theatres Trust Trustee Gary Kemp said it was well known how difficult it can be for theatres to raise funding for the early stage concept and viability works and for organisational support.

He said: "These first stages of a project provide the vital foundations for both project and organisation, and we hope that with this support, these theatres will be able to make real progress.”

Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme is supported by Historic England, The Pilgrim Trust, Swire Charitable Trust and anonymous donors.

Georgina Nayler of the Pilgrim Trust added:"The Pilgrim Trust recognises the importance of supporting theatres at risk to save their buildings and give them a viable and sustainable future.

"This is not just because so many of the buildings are of outstanding significance, but also because a restored, vibrant and well visited theatre building can assist with the regeneration of the centres of our towns and cities. We are delighted to be funding this programme.

Martha Allfrey trustee of the Swire Charitable Trust said the organisation applauded the goal of removing vulnerable theatres from the Theatres at Risk register to secure the future of what he described as 'vital, cultural, community and heritage assets.'

She added: "Theatres Trust’s unique and intense work with these theatres can lend support in so many ways, offering exciting opportunities to the community and campaign groups involved – we will follow the progress of each project with great interest.”