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Hackney Empire

Television and Bingo

As traditional theatre entertainment came under pressure from the new commercial television, the Hackney Empire chalked up another first when it was acquired by ATV and became Britain's first commercial television studio during the 1950s . Programmes such as “Take Your Pick”, and “Oh Boy!”, a live rock show featuring new British artists including Marty Wilde and Cliff Richard, were broadcast to the nation. Artistic Director Roland Muldoon recollects talking to technicians who worked at the studios in the 1960's when the seats were removed to film scenes for Emergency Ward 10.

In 1963 the Hackney Empire was purchased by Mecca who converted the theatre into a bingo hall. The Empire remained with Mecca until, in 1984, the it became a Grade II* listed building. Mecca looked for a new owner and came to an arrangement with “CAST Presents New Variety”, who set up the Hackney Empire Preservation Trust and a Management Company. The theatre was reopened on its 85th birthday, December 9, 1986. The new management successfully re-established the Empire as a theatre which is now one of Britain's leading venues, presenting a mixture of variety, comedy, drama, dance, opera, pantomime and concerts to a diverse London audience.

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