Empire Theatre set to strike back after being saved from auction

Campaigners who feared a Burnley theatre they are fighting to save had faced its final curtain were celebrating this week after a plan to auction it off was scrapped.

Tuesday, 18th October 2016, 1:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th October 2016, 6:04 pm
The Empire Theatre which has been given a reprieve after being saved from the auctioneer's hammer

News that the Empire Theatre in Cow Lane had been given a reprieve from the auctioneer's hammer was music to the ears of members of the Burnley Empire Theatre Trust's committee who are working tirelessly towards preserving and restoring it to its former glory.

Trust members have been working with solicitors representing the Duchy of Lancaster to come to an agreement and negotiate a timescale for the Trust to make progress.

Sophie Gibson of BETT said: "Over the past week, the Duchy has been made more aware of the history of the Empire and the group who have formed to work towards saving it.

"With this in mind, we are very proud and grateful to say that the Duchy is keen to see the theatre remain in the community.

"We cannot thank the Duchy of Lancaster enough for giving us this amount of support and we now continue our journey beside them."

The building had been offered to the Trust early on in the campaign but due to pending charity status and the viability study not yet being fully complete, BETT were not and are still not in a position to take ownership of the building yet.

The first phase of the viability study has been completed and campaigners are hoping for positive results so they can move to phase two when a business plan can be drawn up and funding for the work can be applied for to restore the theatre, designed by renowned Victorian architect Bertie Crewe, to its former glory.

The theatre has risen to number five in the most recent Theatre Buildings at Risk Register and the the BETT has working with Burnley Council and The Theatres Trust on ambitious plans to preserve and re-develop the building.

The Theatres Trust has congratulated people in Burnley for their support as a “shining example” of how a community can throw its weight behind a project.

A spokesman for the Duchy of Lancaster said: "At the request of Burnley Empire Theatres Trust, the Duchy of Lancaster agreed to withdraw Burnley Empire Theatre from auction.

"To allow the Trust the time it needs to take ownership of the property, the Duchy has agreed to ‘hold’ the building as the owner of last resort for a further six-month period.

"Burnley Council and the Trust recognise however that the property is not part of the Duchy and that the Duchy bears no responsibility for the upkeep or restoration of the building.”

The spokesman added that no guide price had been set for the building as the Duchy hoped the property would be retained in local ownership.

Campaigners have sent out a thank you to people who have got behind the drive to save the Empire and also sent out an invitation to attend two events to get involved in supporting them.

The first one is an open meeting next Wednesday (October 26th) at the Inn on the Wharf from 7-30pm. All are welcome to attend.

A fund raising Magic Night will also be held at the same venue on Friday, November 18th, featuring members of the Magic Circle who have entertained audiences all over the world.

Tickets, priced at £12.50 are available from the www.burnleyempiretheatretrust.co.uk