A New Year Message from the Theatre’s Chairman, Michael Berry

“As another year draws to a close and we look forward with optimism to the New Year at the Theatre.

“Who would have thought that in March 2020, when we had to first close the doors of the Theatre due to coronavirus, that it will still be dominating the headlines and our thoughts at the end of 2021? It has been a difficult year for everyone, but nothing has given me greater pleasure than to see our customers coming back to shows, and our volunteers and staff adapting to new ways of working to keep everyone safe.

“Some particular highlights include our reopening night show Magic of Musicals hosted by the brilliant duo Two Men Without Assistance. The show featured a whole host of performers who all got their start on the Empire stage and gave their services free to raise funds for the theatre. With a capacity crowd (with social distancing of course) the evening was a pure celebration of everything the theatre is about! We even featured on BBC NW Tonight as they met the cast of the reopening show.

“To welcome audiences back to our monthly Monday Afternoon Variety Shows was a personal pleasure and it has been great to see the smiles on people’s faces as the audiences have grown month by month since their return.

“We enjoyed some great sold-out events, such as The Wizard of Oz, The Freddie & Queen Experience, The Wagon Wheels, Pinked Floyd, The Greatest Day, King of Pop and The Drifters. It was also good to see the Blackburn Drama Club back on stage with The Hound of the Baskervilles.

“Family shows are always popular at The Empire and none more than our annual pantomime, which this year was the delayed Dick Whittington and his Cat. To see school groups filling the theatre again and families enjoying the music, fun and dance brought a smile to everyone’s faces. Our panto was featured on national radio with LBC Radio highlighting that we were one of the best value pantomimes in the country.

“The year cannot go by without remembering those we have lost. Our Patron, John Challis, was a great supporter of the theatre and of course an amazing comedy and character actor. We also lost some of our most dedicated volunteers including Derek Miller and Maureen Harling. Both will be greatly missed by everyone at the theatre.

“I would personally like to thank each person that helps to make The Blackburn Empire a success. Our volunteers have been cheerful, adaptable and eager to help in changing circumstances and, as most of you know, the theatre cannot survive without our willing volunteers. You simply are the BEST! Our small team of staff have continued to go above and beyond and their commitment to the theatre is a source of great pride…Thank you!

I would also like to acknowledge the support we received from the Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund through the Arts Council and support from the Theatre Trust. We were also approved for the Visit England “We’re Good to Go” scheme and also the “See it Safely” scheme. 

“So, as the year comes to a close, we can look forward with optimism to 2022. We have seen many changes over the last year, with improvements to systems, processes & procedures and we are keen to continue to embrace change where it benefits the theatre.

“We have a full programme of events already in place for 2022 and we are actively looking to widen the type, range and diversity of shows we offer to bring new audiences to the theatre over the coming years. We already have some exciting announcements to make in the New Year and I promise to share them with you all soon.

“The support from our board, staff, volunteers, performers has again been exceptional and I would ask you all to keep talking about the theatre, sharing our social media posts and being as enthusiastic as ever for what is to come.

“Wishing you all the best for 2022 and I wish you happiness and good health for the year ahead.”

Michael Berry
Chairman of Blackburn Empire Theatre