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Hackney Empire unveils 2021 reopening plans

Leona Lewis will also join the venue as Patron

Hackney Empire and Leona Lewis
© Left: Simon Phipps, right: Hackney Empire

Hackney Empire has unveiled its plans for the remainder of 2021.

Hackney-born music icon Leona Lewis will become patron for the venue, and as part of her role, Lewis will support and mentor young individuals on the "Creative Futures" programme.

She said: "I am honoured to become a Patron of Hackney Empire, one of the London's most loved and magical venues. For me this feels like homecoming – it was on Hackney Empire's legendary stage I won the first competition which started me on my journey as a professional artist, it's the place I launched my album Echo, and is home to amazing memories of generations of my friends and family. More recently during the pandemic it's been a huge pleasure and inspiration to work with young people from Hackney Empire's Creative Futures programme. I'm looking forward to continuing that work as a Patron – getting involved creatively and  helping to amplify the voices of some of our amazing young artists."

In July, the venue will release filmed performances from its decade-old talent showcase Alter Ego, presenting the best in young talent from the local area.

Sumah Ebelé, a 21-year old emerging actor and writer from east London, will pen a new play based on Romeo and Juliet, set to be staged by 40 young people aged 14 to 19. Co-directed by the venue's artistic director Yamin Choudury and Kane Husbands, the workshop process runs from 31 July to 14 August 2021, with musical direction by Ty Lowe.

From September, the venue intends to return to playing to full capacity audiences, with opera, theatre, comedy, live podcasts and more being presented. There will be a performance of The Socially Distant Sports Bar: Live! and comedy from Sindhu Vee. During this month the theatre will also host the new BEAM showcase, featuring all things new musicals.

In October, English Touring Opera will perform at the venue, while Oliver Samuels will present new play Crazy But True, written with Dennis Titus. October will also see the world premiere of new musical Vanara.

In late November, the venue's iconic pantomime will return – this time being Jack and the Beanstalk. Led by Clive Rowe (another Patron of the venue), further details are to be revealed.

The theatre has launched a Creative and Project Development Bursary to aid underrepresented artists make a mark in the arts world. Recipients this year include Daniel Ward (writer of The Canary and the Crow), Debris Stevenson (creator of Poet in da Corner), Bradley Cumberbatch and Sophie Miller.

From November, the venue will begin its 120th anniversary celebrations – with details to be announced.

Choudury said today: "The last 16 months have been some of the most challenging we have experienced in recent memory, and what has kept many of us going is the idea of what those first nights back are going to feel like for us all. Jo and I couldn't be more thankful to all of those who have supported us over this time and to our incredible team that have worked tirelessly to make sure that Hackney Empire was always open, accessible and there for young people in every way over the last year, and that we are now in the best possible position to welcome our incredible audiences back after the summer."

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