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Hackney Empire

Music Hall and Variety

Built in 1901 by the legendary theatre architect Frank Matcham, the Hackney Empire with its electric lights, central heating and in-built projection box, was a technological wonder of its time. The Empire is one of the few Matcham theatres to have survived into the twenty-first century, and is arguably the finest example of his work.

The Hackney Empire has always attracted the brightest stars of the day, from the 'Queen of the Halls' Marie Lloyd, who lived in Graham Road just behind the Empire and whose act consciously shocked and challenged her audience, to Hollywood giants Charlie Chaplin and WC Fields.

Between the wars the Empire hosted burlesque, revues, plays and concerts as well as variety. Louis Armstrong made a rare UK appearance on stage at the Empire. Following the war, audiences flocked to see artists such as Charlie Chester, Issy Bonn, Tony Hancock and Liberace, who had become household names.

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