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Campaigners hope to bring Liverpool’s ‘at risk’ Garston Empire back into use

The Garston Empire opened in 1915 and was a theatre for three years before becoming a cinema. Its last use was as a bingo hall
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A new campaign group has been set up to bring the at risk Garston Empire in Liverpool back into use as an entertainment venue.

The building has been disused for 10 years and was placed on the Theatres Trust Theatres at Risk Register in 2009 due to threat of demolition.

Having opened in 1915, the Garston Empire operated as a theatre for three years before becoming a cinema. Its last use was as a bingo hall, which ended when it closed in 2009.

Now a group of local residents, led by businessman Tony Murray, hope to see the building “returned to its glory days” as a theatre and multi-use entertainment venue. The venue has an estimated capacity of 1,000.

Murray, who has previously worked as a bingo-caller at Hackney Empire in London, said: “The idea just came to me in a flash one day.

“I know that they have turned the Hackney Empire into a roaring success and I thought we could do the same thing, if not better, with the Garston Empire.

“I put a post on Facebook and I’ve been overwhelmed with support. It has just taken off like a rocket.”

The campaign group, called the Friends of Garston Empire, is currently in negotiations with the owner of the theatre, Andrew Sail, to secure ownership or a lease of the premises.

Murray added: “The Empire is right in the centre of Garston and we are determined to see it turned into the resource and great focal point that it is capable of becoming.”

Claire Appleby, architecture adviser at the Theatres Trust, said: “The Garston Empire is a rare surviving example of its kind – a ‘fleapit’ theatre built in largely working-class areas and designed accommodate both variety theatre and silent film.

“But beyond its architectural merit, Theatres Trust believes it is also a real asset to the local community and we are delighted that a group has come together to work to resurrect the theatre.

“It will be a long journey but we will support the group however we can.”

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