Houdini’s music hall stages a great escape
A VICTORIAN theatre that famously hosted illusionist Harry Houdini has had its own great escape after being bought for £1 by campaigners.
Burnley Empire Theatre opened in 1894 as a music hall jewel in Lancashire and its 1,935 seats were sold out to see escapologist Houdini in 1902.
But for the past 23 years it has stood empty and faced being auctioned off. The crumbling stage is a mass of peeling paintwork with vividly coloured stage fittings turned brown by decades of filth.
But it has now been bought from the Duchy of Lancaster by campaign group Burnley Empire Theatre Trust.
Director Sophie Gibson said: “We are excited to finally own the building we all care about so much.
“We’d like to thank everyone who has supported us so far, in particular the Theatres Trust, National Trust, 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 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.”
The theatre was converted into a cinema in 1938. It closed in 1995 after a spell as a bingo hall.
Claire Appleby, architecture adviser at Theatres Trust, said of the Grade II-listed Lancashire theatre: “It’s Burnley’s only surviving music hall, a magnificent building with a high level of architectural interest and a fascinating history. It offers real potential for its community.”
Campaigners have secured future of Burnley’s Victorian music hall