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People's Plaque commemorates the Finsbury Park Empire

Chas McDevitt; Cllr Una O'Halloran; Cllr Comer-Schwartz, Adam Borzone and Mark Fox

Chas McDevitt; Cllr Una O'Halloran; Cllr Comer-Schwartz, Adam Borzone and Mark Fox

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Finsbury Park Empire – once one of London’s most famous music halls and variety theatres - has been honoured with an Islington People’s Plaque.

The 2000-seat theatre, designed by celebrated theatre architect Frank Matcham, opened in 1910 at a cost of £45,000 and played host to many stage and screen greats including Marie Lloyd, Laurel and Hardy, Max Miller and Tony Hancock.

It built a reputation for featuring many firsts, including Britain’s first all-women’s variety show in 1914, with Marie Lloyd topping the bill; the first public performance of the magic trick ‘sawing a person in half’ which was performed by British magician P.T. Selbit in January 1921; and the UK’s first all-American variety show in which singer Sophie Tucker made her UK debut in 1922.

The Empire, which was designed by celebrated theatre architect Frank Matcham, was demolished in 1965 but is still fondly remembered, and was one of three winners chosen for an Islington People's Plaque by popular vote in 2016.

Yesterday (Tuesday 10 October) Adam Borzone, Chairman of The British Music Hall Society, and Mark Fox, Chairman of the Frank Matcham Society, unveiled a People's Plaque at Vaudeville Court in St Thomas's Road, at the council housing that now stands on the site of the Empire. 

Also at the unveiling was Chas McDevitt, star of Britain's skiffle scene in the 1950s, who played on the last bill at the Finsbury Park Empire on Saturday, 7 May 1960.

Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Islington Council's executive member for community development, said: "The Finsbury Park Empire is part of Islington’s very strong tradition of arts and culture that continues to this day with major theatres and venues, and a thriving culture of creativity at all levels.

“The Empire was one of London's best-known venues and still holds a place in people’s hearts, and we're delighted to commemorate it with an Islington People's Plaque, as chosen by popular vote.”

Find out more about Islington’s Heritage and People’s Plaques at


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Residents, guests, and councillors at the Finsbury Park Empire plaque unveiling

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Empire, Finsbury Park, at opening in 1910

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Pearly King and Prince of Finsbury, John (left) and Darren Walters at the plaque unveiling

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