Upfront identity at Hackney Empire

Hackney Empire, the Grade II-listed music hall that once provided a stage for Charlie Chaplin and WC Fields, is planning a huge, eye-catching, exterior identity for its East London home following the venue’s long-awaited relaunch later this month.

The theatre reopens on 28 January after a £15m restoration, led by Tim Ronalds Architects, which adds modern facilities and restores the original interiors, designed by Frank Matcham in 1901.

However, the feature destined to turn Hackney Empire into a London landmark, a giant 3D rendering of its logo on the façade, is still in development. It is due for completion this spring, as part of the new front-of-house building that includes education and hospitality suites and the Marie Lloyd bar.

Springpoint created the Hackney Empire identity prior to its merger with FutureBrand (DW 27 March 2003). Group founder Fiona Gilmore, who has since set up consultancy Acanchi, says the theatre needed to make a ‘larger than life’ statement, echoing its traditions of popular entertainment.

‘The Hackney Empire is a unique place. The work couldn’t be pretentious and had to be reflective of being for the people,’ she says.

Tim Ronalds, principal of the architectural group, says he wanted to retain the ‘layers of design that have been added over the years’, so visitors can rediscover the ‘Miss Haversham quality’ of the interiors.

Closed since May 2001, the Hackney Empire now promises a programme running from opera to stand-up under artistic director Roland Muldoon.

Turner Prize-nominated artists Catherine Yass and Tracey Emin have contributed, respectively, the invitation for the reopening and a neon installation, Just Love Me. The Springpoint operation ceased in December.

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