Why Should We Save The Empire?
At the turn of the 20th century Burnley had five Music Halls, and stars of the day such as Chaplin & Houdini entertained Burnley audiences. The theatregoers were treated to performances which would rival a Royal Variety Show - comedians, ventriloquists, dancers, acrobats, magicians - and not just variety but opera, ballet, musical theatre and more. Burnley people packed the Music Halls to see the best in live entertainment. The headline act from this 1905 photograph, the Yiulianis, were one of the most well known European acrobatic acts, perhaps a fair comparison for today might be to think of Diversity, or maybe Cirque du Soleil...
'The place was crowded in every part and on all hands the management were congratulated on providing Burnley with such a beautiful and elaborately appointed theatre. The elegant design was no less admired than the dainty ornamentations while the architect (Mr Bert Crewe) was admitted to have achieved a triumph in the general compactness of the whole building...
The proprietors have spared no expense in equipping Burnley with one of the finest theatres in the North of England'
Burnley Express, 13th September, 1911
Acts from all over the world performed at the Burnley Empire, it has seen almost every kind of act on its stage, from a full circus on a rotating platform to a 10,000 gallon water tank for exhibition divers! Dr Walford Bodie 'electrocuted' audience members in a specially built electric chair, Franco Piper, 'The Banjo King' played multiple banjos simultaneously, whilst juggling them! Madam Paula, 'The Reptile Queen' delighted theatre goers with her live snakes and alligators, and in 1914 Captain de Villiers featured an eighteen foot radio controlled Zeppelin, which dropped miniature bombs on the audience! Fortunately for them the bombs were imitations, so they lived to visit another day, but our research is turning up act after act who performed right here Burnley's last surviving music hall. The history of the Burnley Empire is an amazing one which is revealing tale after tale as we dig deeper...