A MAJOR project to refurbish seating at a theatre is underway.

The £38,000 scheme for the 514 capacity auditorium at the Empire Theatre in Consett is due to be completed by the end of July.

Preliminary work was carried out by the Friends of The Empire, who since 2003 have contributed more than £140,000 towards venue and equipment upgrades through memberships and donations.

The Friends of The Empire have provided £8,500 towards the new seating refurbishment project.

A neighbourhood budget grant from nine local Durham County Council members totalling £17,000 was approved through the Derwent Valley Partnership.

Leisureworks, the trust that manages the theatre on behalf of Durham County Council, will contribute the rest of the money.

Dennis Lavin, group chairman, said: “I am delighted to see the refurbishment programme reaching a successful conclusion.

“We are all pleased to have been part of the efforts made by all interested parties.

“Our hope is that you, our theatre goers, will enjoy your new seating as much all of the friends enjoy being part of the theatre through our fundraising and volunteering.”

The original design of the seating and the theatre’s existing seating plan will remain unchanged.

The project will take place in four main phases and will have limited impact on customers, with the majority of work taking place outside normal theatre opening times.

Once complete the newly refurbished seats will improve comfort throughout the stalls and circle areas.