AHF opens doors for Theatre Campaigners

Architectural Heritage Fund provides grant support for Burnley Empire Theatre Viability Study

Release date: 20 January 2017

Campaigners fighting to rescue and restore a derelict theatre in Burnley have received good news this week.  The Architectural Heritage Fund has agreed a Project Viability Fund grant of £4000 towards the second phase of the Burnley Empire Viability Study which will allow the group to undertake a buildings evaluation and assess whether the theatre has a commercially viable future.

The funding was applied for by Theatres Trust, on behalf of the Burnley Empire Stakeholders Group, and will be matched by funding raised by Burnley Empire Theatres Trust (BETT).  Other members of the Stakeholders Group include Burnley Council, Burnley College, the University of Central Lancashire and Burnley and District Civic Trust.  The first phase of the Viability Study was funded by Theatres Trust and Burnley Council, and concluded in December 2016. The overall aim of the Viability Study is to identify a sustainable future for the Grade II Burnley Empire, and provide support for further funding bids which are likely to be needed to restore the theatre.

Burnley Empire has appeared on the Theatres Trust Theatre Buildings at Risk Register for 8 years. Designed by local Burnley architect G B Rawcliffe, the building was reconstructed and enlarged in 1911 by renowned theatre architect Bertie Crewe. The building, which it is believed served as the wartime home to the Old Vic, Sadler’s Wells Ballet and Sadler’s Wells Opera, has now lain vacant for over 20 years, and is in a poor state of repair.

Ian Morrison, Chief Executive of the Architectural Heritage Fund said: ‘Thanks to support from Historic England and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and through a team of regional support officers we are able to help local people who feel passionately about rescuing historic buildings at risk. Our grants enable groups to take those first important steps to restoring and regenerating properties which have both heritage and community value.’

Claire Appleby, Architecture Adviser Theatres Trust said:  ‘Theatres Trust, the National Advisory Public Body for Theatres, has long been concerned about the future of this theatre.  We have been delighted to support the commitment shown by its local community which has resulted in the formation of BETT, and have enjoyed working with BETT, Burnley Council and other stakeholders to identify a future for this building. We are incredibly grateful for this support from the Architectural Heritage Fund, which will play an important role in this.’

Credits: Photography courtesy Craig Simpson & Mark Salmon


Burnley Empire Theatre