The O2 Shepherds Bush Empire gloriously re-opened earlier this month with two sell-out shows from South Carolina indie-rockers Band of Horses.
The historic Shepherds Bush Green venue was shut in December 2015 after a routine inspection discovered “an isolated section of our roof was in need of attention,” said General Manager Bill Marshall. “And we started work straight away.”
However, the technical repairs to the roof and its supporting structure had to be ‘accurate and faithful’ to the original Frank Matcham design, he added, as well as being ‘safe, sound and secure’.
Given that the building is Grade II-listed, the project was a challenge, as the Empire’s contractors had to repair the vaulted roof from the inside up. “Every load balancing point had to be recorded to preserve the venue’s original early 1900s architecture and interior balcony facades,” Marshall said.
“And we appreciate and apologise that such delicate repair works at were delayed. But our ultimate objective and ambition was to preserve the Empire for the future and reaffirm its position as one of the UK’s most historic and important live entertainment theatres.”
The six-month closure also gave the Empire crew a chance to improve the set-up for the venue’s PA – making it sound better throughout the Empire.
In addition, the interior has been fully cleaned, bar frontages repainted, toilet areas improved, ventilation system upgraded, auditorium floor stripped and stained, and the floor at the rear of the auditorium completely replaced.
But for West London history buffs, the best part of the new-look Empire is the newly-uncovered original BBC Television Theatre studio signs.
Look just to the left and right of the stage for the illuminated signs, which say ‘transmission’ and ‘rehearsal’. The signs date from the Empire’s former incarnation as a BBC studio from the 1950s and 60s.