This week in history: Fury as Hackney Council donates £150,000 to buy the Empire instead of ‘keeping open laundrettes’

The Gazette 30 years ago

The Gazette 30 years ago - Credit: Archant

Tory and Labour councillors were furious that “hard-up” Hackney Council was planning to give a £150,000 gift to buy the Hackney Empire from bingo giant Mecca.

Councillors branded the plan “ludicrous”, and said the cash should instead be used to reopen council libraries and restore cuts in Town Hall spending plans.

The charity running the Empire faced closure if it was not able to pay the first £50,000 by May 1, and a charity appeal backed by stars like Michael Caine had raised £12,000. But Hackney’s leisure chief Cllr Tommy Sheppard ordered council finance experts to help out. “The theatre is a famous local landmark,” he said. But Tory councillor Bernard Lansman said considering its financial position the council should not be “wasting time on such a suggestion”. “I can see no sense in giving money to what is basically a fringe theatre while we are shutting down facililities like laundrettes,” he said.