June 19 2013 Latest news:
BY RICHARD CORNWELL, Felixstowe editor
Thursday, September 13, 2012
DON’T board up our theatre!
CAMPAIGNERS are hoping Suffolk Coastal will provide similar support for the Spa to that being provided by its partnership council, Waveney, for the Marina Theatre in Lowestoft.
With the future of Felixstowe’s theatre in doubt because of the withdrawal of the £240,000-a-year subsidy, some people have voiced concern at Suffolk Coastal’s lack of backing for the arts.
The aim of the Spa Pavilion Associates is to take over the theatre on a model like that of the Marina Theatre Trust.
In Lowestoft, Waveney council still owns the building while the trust runs it – and the local authority has recently contributed £140,000 to a £250,000 refurbishment of the 750-seat Edwardian auditorium.
The charitable trust raised the rest of the cash for the project, which included repainting, replacing seating and carpets, and installing a digital 3D cinema.
It was the first major refurbishment of the theatre for 25 years.
In the past decade, the Marina has dramatically improved its programme with more than a million people attending its popular mix of major West End and touring shows, ballet, drama, opera, top comedians, full scale professional pantomime, community events, films and live music.
That was the plea today from campaigners battling to save Felixstowe’s Spa Pavilion and who believe if it closes, it will never re-open.
Owners Suffolk Coastal council will this month launch a fresh drive to market the 900-seater venue to find a company or organisation willing to take it over and either run it as a theatre or a different type of seaside attraction.
Community group the Spa Pavilion Associates (SPA) confirmed today that it is preparing a fresh bid along the same lines as the group which has successfully taken over Waveney council’s Marina Theatre.
Lisa Hardy, of SPA, said the group’s plans were now well advanced and it was meeting with council officials this week to discuss the latest situation and how to move forward.
“We are still working on the new bid and we are hoping that with the difference in the process this time that we are going to be able to communicate with the council, whereas before we could not,” she said.
“We are hoping that by being able to have open dialogue with the council that we will be able to keep the theatre and the building open in a way which satisfies their objectives, their requirements, and their hopes for Felixstowe.
“We just want to see it resolved quickly.
“We cannot let the theatre be boarded up. If it closes and is boarded up, I don’t think it will reopen again.
“There will be so much work needed, even after a few months to deal with any deterioration and bring it back up to standard, that I don’t think it would be possible.”
Suffolk Coastal says audiences have been falling to a degree that each ticket is being subsidised by the council by more than £7 and the theatre needs to be run more cost effectively.