Show will go on as Burnley Empire Theatre is bought

The show may well go on for Burnley's Empire Theatre which has been sold for just £1.

The interior of the Burnley Empire Theatre
The interior of the Burnley Empire Theatre

The historic Grade II listed building has been bought by Burnley Empire Limited, a company formed by the friends group Burnley Empire Theatre Trust (BETT).

Previous owners the Duchy of Lancaster sold the crumbling, but much-loved theatre, to the group as initially promised.

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Sophie Gibson, Director of Burnley Empire Limited, said: "We are excited to finally own the building that we all care about so much. It has been a hectic couple of weeks as there were lots of things to put in place to enable us to take on the building. We’d like to thank everyone who has supported us so far, in particular the Theatres Trust, National Trust, David Wilmore, Burnley Council and the Duchy of Lancaster.

"We have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but we believe that Burnley Empire has a bright future. We’d urge any local individuals or businesses who want to support the project to get in touch. Together we can make this a venue that the whole town can be proud of."

Theatres Trust, along with other interested parties, will continue to help Burnley Empire Limited to realise its ambitions for the theatre. The next steps are to carry out a full condition survey and fundraise for any immediate repair works and the longer-term restoration project.

The restoration project will take an incremental approach focusing on making the building wind and water-tight and working towards a longer-term ambition to restore and reopen the building for the benefit of the local community.

With support from Theatres Trust and Burnley Borough Council, viability studies commissioned in 2016 and 2017 demonstrated that the building has a future as a performance venue. Other stakeholders included BETT, Burnley College, Burnley and District Civic Trust and the University of Central Lancashire.

Claire Appleby, Architecture Adviser at Theatres Trust, said: "As Burnley’s only surviving music hall and Grade II listed theatre, Burnley Empire is a magnificent building with a high level of architectural interest and a fascinating history. But it is much more than that. It is a building that offers real potential for its local community and the new student population of Burnley.

"In Burnley Empire Limited, it has found an owner that can unlock this potential. We have been working with the group since 2015 and are delighted that we have been able to help them on the journey to achieving their ambition. We will continue to support the group.

"Today’s good news has come about because of the collaboration between the friends group, the local authority and other organisations with a shared vision. It is an approach we’d like to see taken more often where there are theatres at risk."