A to Z of Leeds: The theatre which hosted a galaxy of stars

We all know Leeds is a great city, right?

Monday, 7th December 2020, 11:30 am
The Empire Theatre on Briggate, circa 1903.
The Empire Theatre on Briggate, circa 1903.

There are many reasons for this bold claim, from the people who've called this place home, to the history of the region, the developments underway and the talent and creativity we see on a daily basis. Here, we go through the alphabet to give you some reasons to be proud.


The Empire Theatre on Briggate was one of the most prosperous in the city. Its very name was symbolic of a time long since gone.

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October 1955 and Arthur Askey registers amazement at the size of his garment after his daughter Anthea has shrunk it in the wash. The Askey's were appearing in The Love Match at The Empire.

It opened in 1898, the year after the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria, a theatre both imposing and opulent, with marble balustrades and huge mirrors.

Well-known showbiz names such as Peter Sellers, Morecambe and Wise and Ken Dodd all appeared at The Empire through the years but way down the bill.

When Morecambe and Wise performed in November 1954, top of the bill was The Ray Ellington Quartet.

Earlier that year Peter Sellers appeared at the Empire and was fifth on the bill, with Alma Cogan at number nine and Michael Bentine at number 10. On that occasion, the Malcolm Mitchell Orchestra topped the bill.

The Empire closed in February 1961 and was demolished in January 1962. In 1964, it became the site of the Empire Arcade, before it was redeveloped as Harvey Nichol's department store.

DO YOU REMEMBER THE EMPIRE THEATRE? Share your memories with Andrew Hutchinson via email at: [email protected] or tweet him - @AndyhutchYPNMORE A TO Z OF LEEDS:

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Laura Collins