In 2001, the Empire’s centenary year, our Chairman of the Fundraising Appeal Griff Rhys Jones was able to announce that after many years of hard work the Empire had raised £15 million to fund the renovation and restoration of the theatre. Following some not inconsiderable setbacks, work on the original Matcham building was completed and it was opened in January 2004.
This included a new 60 seat orchestra pit together with a brand new backstage area including dressing rooms, wardrobe, green room and kitchen, technical offices and workshops. The fly tower has been extended by 15 feet, allowing sets to fully clear the proscenium arch, and a modern counterweight flying system has been installed.
The Box Office has been expanded and a lift now services all levels of the theatre. All the public areas have seen improved access and toilet facilities, repainting and repairing to ensure Matcham’s masterpiece lasts another century and beyond.
14 September 2004 marked the completion of the entire project with a celebration gala and Sir Alan Sugar, one of our primary benefactors, opened the finished complex. The Marie Lloyd annexe houses the new theatre bar of the same name, the Acorn studio theatre and hospitality spaces. On the exterior of the new development are super-graphics spelling the name ‘Hackney Empire’.
A bold and fitting marker for the theatre, which, standing at over 21 feet high, greets airline passengers as they fly into City Airport.