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Plaque tribute to glory days of Empire

13 October, 2017 — By Emily Finch

Chas McDevitt, third from left, front, and Mayor Una O’Halloran at the plaque unveiling

A PLAQUE to mark the site of a music hall and variety theatre was unveiled on Tuesday by one of the last people to play the venue.

Star of Britain’s skiffle scene, Chas McDevitt, who was on the last bill at the Finsbury Park Empire in May 1960, was present at the unveiling.

The now-demolished, 2,000-seat theatre in St Thomas’s Road was designed by theatre architect Frank Matcham. It opened four years before the outbreak of World War I.

Music hall great Marie Lloyd, best known for her rendition of The Boy I Love Is Up in the Gallery, and comedy duo Laurel and Hardy, once graced the stage of the Empire.

Finsbury Park Empire

The theatre hosted Britain’s first all-women’s variety show in 1914. Finsbury Park audiences were the first to witness the now-classic “sawing a person in half” trick, performed by magician PT Selbit in 1921.

The building was demolished in 1965 but was chosen for an Islington People’s Plaque last year. The plaque is at Vaudeville Court flats on the theatre site.

Councillor Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Islington Council’s cabinet member for community development, said: “The Empire was one of London’s best-known venues and still holds a place in people’s hearts. We’re delighted to commemorate it with an Islington People’s Plaque, as chosen by popular vote.”

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