Hackney Empire: Have your say over its future

Photo: Ewan-M

A public meeting is to be held next week to discuss the future of the much loved Hackney Empire, which temporarily closed last month amid a crisis over its funding.

The public meeting will be held at the theatre itself on February 25, with local politicians and representatives of the venue’s Board of Trustees in attendance. Questions will be taken from the public and can also be emailed in advance to info@hackneyempire.co.uk

Located in Mare Street, the Empire has become well-known as a theatre in recent years, hosting variety, stand up comedy and a well received annual pantomime. Originally opened in 1901 as a music hall, it has also previously operated as a television studio and a bingo venue.

It was extensively refurbished between 2001 and 2004, with the help of donations from celebrity backers including Hackney local Sir Alan Sugar.

However, debts arising from the works have left the Empire struggling financially. Managers have ordered the suspension to review their business strategy, but insist that the closure will not be permanent.

A possible lifeline for the venue has come in the form of plans announced by property developers Thornsett Group, who aim to redevelop part of the site as flats. However, a number of objections to the proposal mean that planning permission is still under consideration.

Local residents and fans of the venue have voiced their concern about the Empire’s uncertain future. In hopes of raising awareness, supporters have set up a campaign group on Facebook.

Writing on the group’s page, Erik Hogstrom described the Empire as a “beautiful venue”, adding: “Surely it must be saved.”

The group’s founder, Labour councillor Alan Laing, said: “The Empire is a major cultural icon in London and has a century of history behind it.”

For further information about the meeting, visit the Hackney Empire website.

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