Bill Marshall, general manager of O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire, has slapped down rumours that something collapsed or fell down inside its entertainment theatre and has announced that after six months, the venue is back open for business after a major refurbishment of the roof, as well as upgrading audio systems, the auditorium, bathrooms and backstage.
During a routine inspection, it was discovered there was a section of the roof in the heritage-listed building that needed attention and the Board elected to start work straight away in December 2015, says Marshall.
Technically, the repairs had to be faithful to the original Frank Matcham design, as well as remaining safe, so it involved supporting the entire building structure from inside ‘up’, including recording every load balancing point to preserving the venue’s original early 1900’s architecture and interior balcony facades, adds Marshall.
Speakers have been repositioned and refocused, the auditorium has been stripped back, cleaned and repainted, a new ventilation system has been installed and toilet facilities have been improved.
The venue kicked off again at the start of July with sell-out shows from Band of Horses and Sturgill Simpson.
Read Marshall's open letter to the media, below:
The last six months
After a period of closure, we are delighted to let you know that O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire has re-opened with two triumphant sell-out shows from South Carolina indie-rockers, Band of Horses (5/6 July 2016) and Sturgill Simpson (15 July 2016).
We appreciate and apologise that such delicate repair works at our Grade II listed building were regrettably delayed, however our ultimate objective and ambition has been achieved; to preserve our venue for the future and reaffirm its position as one of the country’s most historically important live entertainment theatres. O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire is also one of the most loved and celebrated venues for many artists, industry professionals and fans.
We’d also like to say a huge thank you to all artists, promoters and customers for their patience and support during this time; especially to those people who cooperated and helped us along the way to reschedule events to other venues with minimal disruption to touring schedules (we know it wasn’t easy!)
Contrary to reports, nothing collapsed, nothing fell in, nothing fell down or otherwise! During a routine inspection we discovered that an isolated section of our roof was in need of attention and rather than wait for that elusive ‘quiet period’, it was a wise decision taken by our Board back in December 2015 to start work straight away.
Such technical repairs to the roof and its supporting structure had to be accurate and faithful to our original Frank Matcham design, as well as being safe, sound and secure, and we are extremely grateful for the advice from our many building experts and structural engineers (too many to mention).
Most certainly a challenging project for all concerned due to our listed status, our roof is obviously one of the most important parts of the building. It was a major and intricate project that involved supporting the entire building structure from inside ‘up’, from recording every load balancing point to preserving the venue’s original early 1900’s architecture and interior balcony facades.
What else have we been up to?
So being closed to the public for six months gave us a small window to address a number of other areas for improvement, which we hope you’ll take notice of next time you visit and we’d really appreciate your feedback.
Our technical manager Jim Boyle, assistant technical manager, John Pinner and our sound engineer Liam Halpin (Data Sound Consulting), have spent a large amount of time doing many sound surveys around the auditorium and balcony levels. For the non-technical amongst you, I’ll try to keep this simple.
Historically, our PA has always been straight up, closely stacked speakers. After analysing their data, we’ve moved some of our boxes to different positions, re-focused each box in the stack to take full advantage of each speaker’s full potential, and to level out the sound in all areas of the hall.
We believe that this has significantly improved the sound from a PA that was already highly regarded by many touring engineers, as an enormous improvement. We hope you’ll like what you hear and our Tech team look forward to hearing what you think next time you visit.
Something you probably won’t see when we’re full of bands and fans, but our stunning interior has been fully cleaned, bar frontages repainted, the auditorium floor stripped and stained, and the back of the auditorium floor completely replaced.
Please make sure you don’t stay in Level One bar all night (!) and head out to catch a glimpse of our newly uncovered, original BBC Television Theatre studio signs. When you’re looking at our stage, they’re just to the left and right and you’ll see the wonderful ‘transmission’ and ‘rehearsal’ illuminated signs in pride of place. I’m sure many of you are aware of our music hall history through to our former incarnation as a BBC studio from the 1950s-1980s.
Chilling and electricals
O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire has always had a chilling system but we’ve replaced it with a brand new installation, which involved closing the road to lift this by crane onto our roof. This new ventilation system provides chilled air into the auditorium by way of this external mechanical plant, so we’ve used our time wisely to swap this out with a new, updated system. We’ve also upgraded our electrical systems (distribution) front of house from the main switch rooms.
Conveniences and backstage
WC facilities take the hit of hundreds of thousands of customers’ year on year so all toilets have been improved throughout, including those back-stage in our dressing room area.
For those of you that use artist catering, we hope you prefer the much improved environment on Level 3 and on the way, you’ll note we’ve replaced the flooring on the stairs all the way up to the top from stage door.
There are many more things to talk about, but for now on behalf of everyone at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire and Academy Music Group, thank you so much for your kind words of support, your cooperation and we look forward to welcoming you soon.
Bill Marshall, general manager
Pictures: During the refurbishment and after. (Credit: Caitlin Mogridge. Copyright of O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire)