Hou­dini’s mu­sic hall stages a great es­cape

Daily Express - - Inside Politics - By Chris Riches

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

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