Shepherd's Bush Empire
|Former names||Shepherd's Bush Empire (1903-53; 1994-2009)
BBC Television Theatre (1953-94)
|Address||Shepherd's Bush Green
|Public transit|| Shepherd's Bush
|Owner||Academy Music Group|
|Operator||Academy Music Group|
|Opened||17 August 1903|
|Project manager||Oswald Stoll|
Shepherd's Bush Empire (currently known as O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire for sponsorship reasons, and formerly called BBC Television Theatre) is a music venue in Shepherd's Bush, London, run by the Academy Music Group. It was built in 1903 as a music hall and in 1953 became the BBC Television Theatre. Since 1994, it has operated as a music venue. It is a Grade II listed building.
The Shepherd's Bush Empire was built in 1903 for impresario Oswald Stoll, designed by theatre architect Frank Matcham. Ashly's Circus performed at Shepherd's Bush Empire and presented to George Strong a trophy for riding The Bucking Mule "Sloper' on 8 September 1905. The first performers at the new theatre were The Fred Karno Troupe including Charlie Chaplin (1906). The Empire staged music-hall entertainments, such as variety performances and revues, until the early 1950s, by which time the popularity of these forms of entertainment was declining.
During World War II, the Shepherd's Bush Empire narrowly escaped being hit by a flying bomb, which in 1944 hit the neighbouring Shepherd’s Bush Pavilion, destroying the original interior. The Pavilion did not re-open until 1955.
In 1953, the Empire was sold to the BBC, which put it to use as a television studio–theatre, renaming it the BBC Television Theatre. Among the programmes produced there were Crackerjack, The Old Grey Whistle Test, That's Life!, The Generation Game, Juke Box Jury, This Is Your Life, Jim'll Fix It, most of the BBC's light entertainment music shows, such as those starring Cliff Richard, Lulu, Cilla Black, Dusty Springfield, Shirley Bassey, Vera Lynn, Harry Secombe, Petula Clark, as well as the UK's Eurovision Song Contest preliminary heat, A Song For Europe. In 1985, the theatre was turned over for exclusive use by Wogan, which was broadcast three nights a week from the theatre.
The BBC vacated the building in 1991. It was taken over again, this time in 1993 by entrepreneur Andrew Mahler, who invested over £1m in the building in improvements and refurbishments. In 1994 the building re-opened under its original name of the Shepherd's Bush Empire, since when it has hosted gigs and dance nights.
Shepherd's Bush Empire Today
Live performances filmed at the venue and released on DVD include a King Crimson concert on July 3rd 2000, presented on the 2-disc set Eyes Wide Open, a 2002 performance by punk rock/goth band The Damned, Frank Turner's "Take To The Road" DVD, Opeth's first live DVD (Lamentations) recorded at the Shepherd's Bush Empire on Thursday 25 September 2003, a November 2005 concert by indie band The Wedding Present and The Only Ones comeback concert in June 2007. In November 2007 Amy Winehouse recorded I Told You I Was Trouble: Live in London. In addition to this, Transatlantic's third live release, "Whirld Tour 2010: Live in London", was recorded and filmed at the venue. Folk rock band Mumford & Sons recorded their album Live from Shepherd's Bush Empire there.
In the dance music community it is also known to host raves and hard dance events, such as Frantic or Heat.
The Empire has a capacity of only 2,000, but it has been chosen as a venue for small gigs, or as a venue for 'surprise' warm-up gigs. Prior to their 1999 tour, the Rolling Stones put in a performance, with Sheryl Crow as support, on 8 June.
- Denny, Barbara, Hammersmith and Shepherd's Bush Past, Historical Publications Ltd, London (1995), ISBN 0 948667 32 X
- BBC handbook British Broadcasting Corporation - 1961 "In 1953 the old Shepherds Bush Empire was acquired mainly for the production of light entertainment shows."
- Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1358593)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 29 September 2015.
- Denny, p.93
- Venue History (Official site) accessed 19 August 2008
- Shepherd's Bush Blog Retrieved December 2011
- Denny, p.101
- Unofficial History of Shepherds Bush Empire as BBC Television Theatre accessed 19 August 2008
- Clarke, Betty (12 March 2003). ""The Dixie Chicks" concert review". Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved 13 December 2010.