BREWERS have won an ovation from theatre buffs after pledging money for Blackburn's Red Brick Theatre.

The theatre at Ewood is to be renamed the Thwaites Theatre as Daniel Thwaites brewery has promised a financial package believed to add up to more than £70,000.

Thwaites refused to reveal just how much support they are offering, but the package is said to have boosted the Red Brick Theatre Trust's fund to more than £100,000.

Michael Berry, campaign organiser, said: "Thwaites' backing unlocks the door to our dream. It is wonderful news and we cannot thank Thwaites enough.

"A few months ago, everyone was saying we would never do it but this gives us much more credibility. It's great to have such a big company behind us.

"We are now confident of being fully operational by 2001." The theatre, formerly the Empire cinema, stands on land bought by Thwaites just after the turn of the century.

Thwaites' managing director Paul Baker said: "Thwaites has a long association with this particular site, not to mention close on 200 years of association with our home town of Blackburn.

"This project is aimed at providing a state-of-the-art venue for both professional and amateur artists as well as housing a whole range of facilities not only for entertainment but also for corporate business. It is an exciting concept and we are delighted to be playing a part."

The Red Brick Theatre - controversially renamed because Empire was thought out of date - will be renamed again when the campaigners reach their £300,000 target, needed to unlock £1.3m lottery cash through the Arts Council.

The cash will renovate the cinema into a 350-seat theatre and allow the neighbouring former factory to be converted into studios and other facilities.

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