Hackney Empire – not just for pantos?

Convener(s): Nicola Stanhope 

Participants: Louise, Gary, Mark, Ed, Jo , Hugh

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:


Oh no it doesn’t!

Oh yes it does!


How to use keep the Empire alive and relevant in the 21st Century

  • 1300 seat Frank Matcham theatre
  • Proscenium staging/orchestra pit
  • In Central Hackney


  • Arts Council support has not in the past forced HE to shoe-horn the wrong sort of programming in – but what is the right sort of programming?
  • Keep the theatre open as much as possible and maximise use of the space around it:
    • Open every Sunday night for variety/cabaret/comedy – that’s the type of work that the space best lends itself to
    • Explore opportunities for regular televised shows (e.g. Russell Brand at Hackney Empire is STILL shown on TV all the time)
    • Use the space for what is looks best there:
      • Comedy/variety (see above)
      • Dance
      • Musicals (e.g. bring in shows with a following – “Dreamboats and Petticoats” mentioned as an example
      • Recession programming – people just want to have fun
    • The Empire Café – all day food and drink offering – all about creating a buzz
    • Encourage use of Town Hall square for events (e.g. tie in with Street Dance Festival in theatre itself)
    • Ocean – over the road – re-opening – an opportunity not a threat
  • Complement other local arts offerings – bring them into the space and/or share marketing but don’t do stuff that others do better (e.g. complement don’t imitate the Arcola offering)
  • Is this now Hackney Central’s time to come good? Stoke Newington-Liverpool Street corridor is working but Hackney Central-Clapton regeneration just not getting there.  Can HE make this happen or just wait to be beneficiary if it does?
  • What became of the studio space? Can that be re-opened?  For what sort of work?
  • Take a leaf out of Theatre Royal Stratford East’s book and perform on the stage area as a studio – i.e. audience on stage
  • How to harness the energy of local creatives? Hackney is cheap enough for them to be able to live there – make a virtue of that!
  • Community plays/youth theatre/TIE/local interests groups – all on HE’s agenda
  • Call on support from the network of theatre professionals who have a fondness for HE for any reason
  • Grow the concept of Seasons – lots of niche ideas; need some sort of linking
  • Speak to LOCOG – get something out of 2012!