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Celebrating one of the lost icons of showbiz; SHOWBIZ JOURNALIST AND TV PRESENTER NEIL SEAN, A FRIEND OF THE STARS WHO GREW UP IN MIRFIELD, IS HEADING HOME THIS WEEKEND TO HOST A NOSTALGIC LOOK BACK AT ONE YORKSHIRE'S GREAT VARIETY THEATRE VENUES.

THE Dewsbury Empire remains to me one of the lost showbiz icons of the north hence the reason we are celebrating this once great theatre at an event on Saturday.

As a child growing up in Mirfield to showbiz parents I recall so well my father taking me to see the office block which now blights the spot where this great venue once welcomed the likes of Morecambe & Wise, Max Miller, Frank Randle and so many more greats.

he to Not only that, the theatre gave business to many local boarding house landladies who willingly put up these stars in their own homes, feeding them and helping with opening night nerves. Most acts stayed in the town for a full week when they toured the country while in variety.

in My dad - the late Alan Scott - had become a good local contact for the Simon Cowell of the day, Carroll Levis, who toured his show "Discoveries" all over the UK including Dewsbury where local talent would be put on the stage and the volume of applause would decide who the winner was.

Mr Levis was huge at that time and many people got their first taste of stardom thanks to the opening of his shows.

Dad, though, simply loved the Empire and like so many was distraught when it closed down in 1955, with a local 'am dram' company giving the final performance. Because dad loved the Empire so did I and I wanted to learn more about the place. Later, when I started working in the media, I was able to meet and interview many of the greats who appeared there including stars such as Anthony Newley who truly loved Dewsbury.

Although he was a big star when he appeared in Rep there, he told me he went to join the group so that he could "meet and learn from real people."

A very funny lady - Hylda Baker - was another that I was lucky enough to meet later in life and she enjoyed some wonderful times at the Empire while in pantomime.

Another great we also will discuss in more detail on the evening was the late, great comedian Max Miller.

Now Max was known mainly as a Southern comedian and it was thought that his comedy did not travel that well up north, as they say. But that was simply not the case and many fans will be shocked to find out just what happened on his fateful visit to the Empire.

The Empire Theatre in Wakefield Road - where the office block Empire House is now next to Dewsbury Town Hall - was built in 1909 and opened with a variety show on August 2 the same year.

The theatre was designed by the architects Chadwick and Watson who also designed the wonderful Alhambra theatre in Bradford and that became a stiff competition for the Empire too.

Even the very 'posh' Royal Ballet performed there during the war proving we do like a bit of culture up north too - but with only a piano for accompaniment!

The theatre paid its way until the day it closed in 1955 when the company which ran it was forced into liquidation. This was due to debts incurred by other theatres.

With the arrival of television - all thanks to the televised Queen's Coronation two years earlier - it became even harder to get people to come out of their homes night after night to go to the theatre.

But lots of businesses thrived when the Empire was on song. Fish and chips shops and coach compaines such as Woods and Longstaffs, both running local buses, all did a roaring trade.

The last production at the Empire was by the Dewsbury Operatic Society which leased the building (minus staff ) for one last production. The theatre was never converted into a cinema like so many others.

It was supposed to have been but again it was felt the land was worth more and when that deal fell through it took five years after it closed to get it together. The building was demolished in 1960 and the unlovely Empire House was built in its place.

So do come along and remember the Empire. We have an exclusive guest on the big screen who shares so many wonderful memories of his time there.

We will also be showing the BBC Radio play "Queen of the Empire" and I will be also revealing some inside secrets of the stars who played this great venue.

|Tickets are PS4.50 per person which includes free entry to the raffle. Neil Sean & Ann Montini present Memories of the Dewsbury Empire - a celebration of showbiz Yorkshire. Date and time: Saturday, September 14 at 7pm. Venue: Dewsbury Minster, Vicarage Road, Dewsbury, WF12 8DD.

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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Sep 11, 2019
Words:795
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