A MYSTERY donor has helped an East Lancashire theatre celebrate its centenary in style, with a £50,000 gift.

The massive donation was revealed last night at a gala dinner to mark 100 years of the Thwaites Empire Theatre, Blackburn.

Theatre chairman Michael Berry said: “The individual concerned is a very private person, but this is a magnificent gesture and we are absolutely delighted.”

Around 350 people representing businesses, the arts and theatre-loving public from across East Lancashire attended the dinner at Blackburn Rovers Ewood Park ground.

On the night there was a silent auction for 50 prizes, which ranged from having your name given to a character in the next novel to be written by best-selling Blackburn author Josephine Cox, to being a Lancashire Telegraph reporter for a day.

A number of other top prizes including the opportunity to swim with sharks were also auct-ioned and, by the end of the evening, more than £21,000 had been raised.

This money will go to the theatre’s Raise the Roof campaign which aims to re-roof the main theatre building and the Capita Performing Arts Centre which is also at the Ewood site.

Mr Berry said: “The theatre has captured the hearts of the community and so many people have given time and money to help make it what it is today.

“We are so grateful to everyone for their efforts, but we don’t stop here.”

The theatre, which was formerly a cinema, has been transformed in the past 30 years from a virtually derelict shell to a thriving community resource.

Over £800,000 has been raised to rebuild the former Red Brick Theatre and a team of volunteers ensure its smooth running under the direction of new general manager Ian Robinson and Harriet Roberts, the theatre’s special projects manager.

Mr Berry said: “Without the volunteers we would not have made the theatre dream come true.

“Now we must ensure that the theatre remains for future generations.”