BLACKBURN'S Thwaites Empire Theatre is putting together an ambitious bid to double the size of its performing arts centre.

The Ewood-based theatre is to ask the National Lottery Fund for half a million pounds for a scheme which would see a state-of the-art recording studio, a cafe and a second floor added to the Capita Performing Arts Centre.

The plan would also provide additional rehearsal and meeting rooms and a brand new entrance would be created on Aqueduct Road with a large foyer and lift to the first floor.

New en-suite dressing rooms would also be built for artists appearing at the theatre.

Managing director Michael Berry said: “In the eight years since the theatre opened we have established ourselves as a focal point for the whole community.

“There is such a demand for our facilities during the week that we are having to turn groups away.

“This plan will enable us to meet a genuine need. It is a lot of money to ask for but even if our application for funding is unsuccessful we will make this happen.”

More than £1million has been raised to transform the former derelict Red Brick Theatre into a thriving arts centre over the past eight years.

“Many people said that the dream of a theatre would never be realised but we proved them wrong.

"We have had a tremendous amount of support from benefactors and volunteers and if we have to raise the money ourselves we will do.”

The Capita Performing Arts centre, which is linked to the theatre itself, is home to a number of amateur theatre groups including Blackburn Musical theatre Group and Gilbert and Sullivan Society.

“Every week hundreds of people use the Capita building,” said Michael.

“Over half are young people involved in dance and theatre.

“We also regularly host business meetings and rooms for pensioners’ groups but with the expansion plans we could do so much more.

“I would love to think that we could celebrate 10 years of the theatre opening by having the expansion plans well underway.

Final touches are being put to the bid for Lottery cash which will be submitted in the next few weeks.

“If anyone would like to help our bid either financially or by volunteering I would love them to get in touch,” said Michael.

Michael Berry can be contacted at