Way back in the 1970s a dedicated group of enthusiasts set up a charity with the objectives of providing Blackburn with a theatre that would be a focal point for amateur arts and entertainment in the Borough and to aspire to present the very best in professional entertainment. The enthusiasm of the original steering committee was infectious and it was not long before many local organisations were eagerly contributing ideas and committing themselves wholeheartedly to driving forward the work of the ‘Theatre Trust’, as it had now become.

Over the years countless citizens and companies have made donations to the theatre from a few pence to literally thousands of pounds. The result is the magnificent theatre you see today. Today’s Board is committed to ensuring Thwaites Empire Theatre remains at the forefront of arts and entertainment.

Thwaites Empire Theatre opened it’s doors in October 2002. Just 3 years later a balcony was added. On the 14th of November 2005 the major refurbishment of the old Empire building was completed and the New Thwaites Empire Theatre was opened as a complete theatre seating a total of 320. The dream of those early visionaries has been realised. Blackburn once again has a thriving live theatre and arts centre of which it is justifiably proud.

During the time span of October 1997 and October 2005 an amazing total of £750,000 was raised by volunteers and this was spent on the loving restoration of the old building which was built as a Cinema for silent films in 1910. Over the years it was known as the Electric Light Theatre, the Barn, The Empire, The Red Brick, the Thwaites Theatre, Thwaites Empire Theatre and now finally The Blackburn Empire.

The building was 100 years old in 2010 and a bid to the Heritage Lottery for financial help to mark the centenary of the Thwaites Empire Theatre with a community celebration was successful!

Work began in February 2009 on a project called ‘2010 – One Hundred Years of the Empire Theatre in Blackburn’ which will encourage local people to discover the history of the building from its roots as one of the first cinemas in the UK.

The Empire est. 1926
The Empire in 1970s