COMEDIAN Jimmy Cricket will headline a special variety show next month to mark the 10th anniversary of the official opening of Blackburn’s Thwaites Empire Theatre.

The former cinema was transformed from a derelict building after a 30 year campaign to bring it back to life which saw more than £1m raised in grants and donations.

Now thriving as both a venue and arts centre used by theatre groups, dance schools and the wider community, the theatre is planning a special night to mark its 10th year.

“We wanted to recreate as much of the bill as possible from the gala night when we opened in 2002,” said theatre manager Paul Mason.

“Jimmy Cricket, who has been a good friend to the theatre over the period, has agreed to headline our show and we are inviting many of the volunteers and sponsors who have helped over the years.”

Among those returning from the original gala night are the trio Classique, featuring singers Brenda Murray, Jim Fitzgerald and Joyce Hilton, and musical director Colin Hilton.

The show will also see performances from some of the organisations which have made their base at the theatre, including Blackburn Gilbert and Sullivan Society, Blackburn Drama Club.

Two local dance schools will be showcasing their talent — the Bernese School of Dance and the Zoe Taylor School of Dance. Both schools will also be heavily involved in the theatre’s pantomime Cinderella and Roger Nuttall will be performing magic on the night.

To celebrate the anniversary, theatre volunteer Ken Sharples a former baker,will be making a special birthday cake which will be shared out among the audience.

“We want this to be a special night, a night of celebration,” said Paul. “The theatre has come so far in 10 years and that is down, in the main, to the fantastic efforts of the volunteers who give so much of their time.”

Tickets for the anniversary show on Sunday, October 28, are now on sale priced £10.

The celebration marks the end of a month of shows at the theatre which begins on Wednesday with Blackburn Drama Club presenting a Farndale Murder Mystery until next Saturday.

Blackburn Musical Theatre Company will celebrate their centenary with special showcases from Thursday, October 11 to Saturday, October 13 and on Thursday, October 18, comedian Des Day will return with a charity variety show to raise money for Derian House children’s hospice.

The music of the Blues Brothers will be brought to life by the Sweet Soul Brothers on Friday, October 19 and two nights of music and mystery will come to the theatre with Magic of the Musicals on Friday, October 26 and Saturday, October 27.

For details of all shows, contact the box office on 01254 605500.