Would you like to be involved in a community arts and social history project called "Worker's Thread"?

"Worker's Thread" aims to explore the history of The Empire Theatre in Consett and anyone who was involved with the theatre from the 1970s.

Read on for an introduction and invitation to participate in the project.

As part of the Bishop Auckland Heritage Action Zone programme, artist and tailor Richard Bliss has been working with people from the town this year on a project entitled “Worker’s Thread” (see www.richardbliss.co.uk). The project has been supported by Durham County Council’s community arts team and has now been extended to Consett. This introduction is designed to provide some information about the project and invite participation and involvement from Consett residents, particularly those who have had an involvement with the Empire Theatre & Cinema and/or who are interested in its recent history and development.

“Workers Thread” seeks to focus on the many ordinary working people whose skills and labour have created the public buildings which grace our towns and cities but who are never mentioned at the official openings, and whose names are not recorded on the opening plaque. Talking with Richard, we focussed on the period in the early 1970’s when the Empire Theatre, then disused, was purchased by the newly formed Derwentside District Council, refurbished, and subsequently re-opened with a gala concert on 11 July 1977.

“Workers Thread” aims to explore this episode in the history of Consett, which whilst only 43 years ago, seems a world away from the town in 2020. As well as looking into the social and historical aspects of the theatre’s re-opening, the project aims to bring together local people to help create some garments based on working clothes from that period that can be exhibited at locations in the town centre and help to celebrate the contributions of the huge team that worked on the Empire Theatre and helped bring it back to life as a vibrant cultural facility which is still valued and enjoyed 40 years after the steel works closed.

The core of the project will be working with members of local amateur dramatics/operatic societies to create a piece of historic workers clothing, linked to the history of The Consett Empire.

To generate interest in the project, and subsequently develop pieces for an exhibition, the project will:

  • Research the redevelopment of the Consett Empire in the 1970s.
  • Attempt to make contact with people who were involved in the regeneration work as builders and other trades, administrators, Councillors or others involved in the planning and execution of the regeneration plans.
  • Contact people who are involved with making costumes for the amateur dramatics/operatic societies, to see if they are interested in making clothes or other objects associated with the working lives of members of the societies, who were involved with the Empire Theatre in the 1970s.
  • Contact people in local history societies, the wider membership of the amateur dramatic societies or other members of the public, who might be interested in researching the lives of people associated with the Consett Empire in the 1970s in particular.
  • Put out a call through the Council for photographs, documents, and short written pieces, that relate to the history of the Empire Theatre, Consett.
  • Set up virtual gatherings of everyone involved to talk about both the research and the making process until such time as ‘live’ meetings are permitted.
  • Create an exhibition of up to five pieces (with a focus on working people’s clothing) that could be shown in a number of ways. Options including display in shop windows will be explored with the Council.

If you would like to take part in any aspect of this project or can offer help with tracing people linked to the Empire Theatre refurbishment or the theatre’s staff team of the 1970’s, please contact Martin Weston, in the community arts team, by e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.