‘Stop here’ says Hackney Empire boss

THE boss of the Hackney Empire has vowed to put the troubled theatre firmly back on the map by getting the name of a nearby bus stop changed.

Clarie Middleton, who was installed as interim chief executive in August last year in a bid to save the loss-making venue, told the Gazette she wanted the Mare Street stop currently announcing Hackney Town Hall to include the Empire.

She made the comments as the 100-year-old former Victorian music hall emerges from one of the most difficult years in its history after spiralling debts forced it to close temporarily last February.

“My ambition is to get TfL (Transport for London) to get the stop now named Hackney Town Hall renamed Hackney Town Hall and Hackney Empire – then I will really feel that we are considered important,” she said.

“We are better looking than the town hall, after all.”

The Empire closed after last year’s panto, Aladdin, as chiefs fought to bring it back from the brink of financial disaster.

The sale of rehearsal rooms and offices in Wilton Way in March and a change in programming has given it a brighter future, according to Ms Middleton.

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“We are approaching this year’s pantomime as a stable organisation, but there is still a lot of hurdles to get over,” she added.

Big-name acts including producer Mark Ronson, Canadian rockers Arcade Fire and controversial comic Russell Brand have boosted ticket sales while comedian Danny “Slim” Gray and the English Touring Opera are already scheduled to appear after Jack and the Beanstalk ends the panto season in January.

Laurie Allen, of campaign group Hackney Empire Elders, said: “The Hackney Empire Elders are 101 per cent behind Ms Middleton’s comments because the Hackney Empire has, over the last 100 years, been very, very much a part of Hackney.

“It would help the theatre immensely. Any signposting must be a good thing.”

A spokesman for TfL said: “We do have a naming strategy that helps us consider requests to change the name of bus stops throughout London.

“When considering these requests, we will establish what bus stop name would most help our passengers and local residents.

“A number of factors are taken into account, including nearby transport interchanges, significant local landmarks and major road junctions.

“We are happy to consider such requests and each will be considered on its own merits”