Olivier award-winning actor and Hackney Empire Patron Clive Rowe this morning launched a crowdfunding campaign to help Hackney Empire survive the devastating impact Covid-19 lockdown has had on its finances.

Clive Rowe has starred in over 14 of Hackney Empire’s legendary pantomimes and said the Grade II* listed theatre ‘must survive’ in an appeal for public support.

The crowdfunding campaign aims to raise over £50,000 in a public appeal and hopes to attract donations from £10. As registered Charity, the 1300 seater Hackney Empire relies heavily on box office and earned income for over 85% of its funding. Now, as lockdown is easing and other industries are starting to open up, theatres which rely on bringing large numbers of people together remain underthreat and Hackney Empire is appealing to its audiences and communities to help ensure that this legendary venue can re-open its doors again in the future.

Situated the heart of one of London’s most diverse, exciting yet economically challenged boroughs Hackney Empire plays a vital and unique role in its community and the cultural landscape at large. One of the UK’s most beautiful and best-loved venues it embraces audiences of over 200,000 each year from across Hackney’s communitiesFor over a century Hackney Empire has been an iconic venue for the performing arts, home to generations of artists, audiences and community participants who come to see a rich variety of music, comedy, opera and theatre as well as work by young and emerging artists which the venue provides a vital platform for.

Hackney Empire’s legendary pantomime is one of the UK’s best and best-loved, attracting audiences of over 50,000 annually. As well as welcoming over 10,000 children from local schools, each year Hackney Empire provide hundreds of free tickets to local Housing Associations, Community Groups and organisations who work with vulnerable young people across East London.

Each year the Hackney Empire: Creative Futures programme works with over 4,000 young people aged 14 – 25 from some of London’s most marginalised communities, using arts and culture to break down barriers to access, raise aspirations, and change lives. This work has continued throughout the Covid-19 crisis as Hackney Empire has taken its activity online, providing support and engagement for hundreds of young people made more isolated by the lockdown. 

The crowdfunding campaign can be found here, on a website set up by the Mayor of London to help London’s businesses and organisations survive the impact of the Covid-19. Also backing the campaign is Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville, award-winning actor Richard Wilson and journalist Robert Peston.

Clive Rowe said “Hackney Empire is an incredibly special place for me.  It brings people and communities together like no other venue I’ve experienced and its atmosphere is legendary. Generations of children have had their first experience of live entertainment at its Panto and its work with young people has transformed thousands of lives.

Theatres have been hit incredibly hard by lockdown, but a world without them is unimaginable. Places like Hackney Empire must survive, and you can help to make sure they do. Please support this campaign if you can and ensure that Hackney Empire can open its doors again for Panto, for music, for comedy and for everyone.” 

Yamin Choudury, Artistic Director and Jo Hemmant, Executive Director of Hackney Empire said: “Hackney Empire will have its 120th birthday in 2021. It should have been a year-long celebration but our focus now is simply to ensure Hackney Empire survives to reach this milestone and that we are still able to play our part in delivering what our audiences and communities will need on the other-side of this. This Crowdfunder will help ensure that we can re-open and we hope that anyone who has come and experienced the unique atmosphere and welcome of Hackney Empire will want to get behind it.”

Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney said “Hackney Empire is a legendary venue which plays a key role in the cultural, civic and economic life of its community. With an enviable track record in engaging young people from traditionally the most isolated and at-risk communities, Hackney Empire has expertise that we anticipate will be much needed in the days to come. We are going to need arts and culture to inspire and reconnect us on the other side of this, and we’re especially going to need places like Hackney Empire – which are embedded in their communities and able to bring people together.” 

Actor Richard Wilson said: “Please support this campaign if you can.  Hackney Empire’s future, along with most other theatres in the country, is in real peril. You can help save it. A world without theatre is unthinkable but at the moment it is a real possibility.  With your support Hackney Empire will re-open its doors and be there to create incredible experiences for all our audiences in the future. Thank you!”

Journalist Robert Peston said: “Hackney Empire is a magnificent historic gem, a wonderful community theatre and an important performing arts centre. It is invaluable and irreplaceable”.