John Challis

(Rest in Peace 1942 – 2021)

One of television’s best loved actors, John Challis is a patron at the Blackburn Empire at Ewood. The popular star is well known for his roles in programmes including Citizen Smith, Coronation Street, The Bill, Heartbeat and Dr Who. But it wasn’t until he landed the role of Boycie, a wide boy second-hand car dealer in Only Fools and Horses that he became a household name.

Chairman, Michael Berry, explains, ‘John visited the theatre in March with his ‘audience with’ evening. He was really taken by our venue and the warm welcome of our dedicated volunteers. He’s a big supporter of our social media pages and will lend his support whenever he’s in the area.’

Speaking of his visit to the community theatre, John said, ‘’I visited the theatre on a recent tour and was bowled over by it. It’s an excellent example of what a community can do to keep arts alive.

‘I received a wonderfully warm welcome and I was very impressed by the theatre’s story. It’s incredible that so many local people have volunteered and worked so hard to provide such a first class facility.

I had no hesitation in agreeing to become a patron and I’d encourage the wider community to continue its support for the Blackburn Empire.’

Jimmy Cricket

James Mulgrew more commonly known as ‘Jimmy Cricket’ has been named as a new ambassador for the Blackburn Empire after supporting the venue for many years.

During a question and answer session with the audience at the theatre, the Irish comedian was asked to become the theatre’s honorary patron.

A delighted Jimmy accepted immediately saying that it was a “great honour”. “I am proud to have been asked and of course I accept,” he said.

“This is such a great little theatre which means so much to the community. It has got a great reputation among the artists who have performed here because everyone is so friendly.

“I always enjoy coming here and it is a great honour to be asked to be a patron.”

Theatre chairman Michael Berry said: “Jimmy has been a great friend to the theatre over the years and was a natural choice to become our patron.”

Jimmy Cricket won LWT’s talent contest, Search For A Star, and was later given my own series on Central Television in the mid-1980s called “And There’s More” (which included the first TV appearance by the impressionist Rory Bremner).

Mr Cricket also had his own programme on BBC Radio 2, featured in The Krankies Klub alongside The Krankies (who else) and Bobby Davro and appeared on the Royal Variety Show (1984). He later appeared in the 2007 Comic Relief video of The Proclaimers’ song “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” which featured Matt Lucas and Peter Kay.