Rain

Rain

max temp: 12°C

min temp: 9°C

Search

Felixstowe: Tears and fears as theatre closes amid uncertain future

07:00 07 January 2013

The Spa Pavilion

The Spa Pavilion

Archant

ONE of the region’s biggest theatres is facing an uncertain future today – with supporters praying that it hasn’t shut its doors for the last time.

Spa Pavilion history

AT the turn of the 20th century, the site of the Spa Pavilion was occupied by a wooden shed from which was sold the medicinal spa waters which flowed from the cliffs.

By 1907, it was a place of entertainment and home to a wrought iron covered bandstand with room for 30 musicians and surrounded by open-air seating for several hundred spectators.

Two years later the first theatre opened – known as the Floral Hall, and based on a similar venue at Bridlington, it cost £7,000, incorporated the bandstand and provided an indoor theatre seating 700 people, opening on June 25, 1909.

The Floral Hall stayed until it was replaced by the new Spa Pavilion in 1939 – though the new building only lasted two years when the cliff was struck by a German bomb which blew its roof off.

It was rebuilt after the war to create the building which exists today – the lounge restaurant was added in the 1970s and toilets and lift in the 1990s – and opened in 1950.

Over the years, it has played host to a rich variety of entertainment – from big bands to rock and roll, musicals to comedy, quality drama to dance spectaculars, opera to ballet, household names to local amateur performers, traditional seaside shows to panto, a wide range of community events and more.

Many of the nation’s top TV stars of the day came to Felixstowe – such as Les Dawson, Mike Yarwood, Tommy Cooper, Bob Monkhouse, Larry Grayson, Lenny Henry, Jim Davidson and Jimmy Tarbuck – and it would host a six-week summer season.

More recently, the line-up has been more low-key and tribute bands as it has struggled to attract top shows.

As another fantastic panto run came to an end, the emotion and reality of the occasion hit home and there were tears on stage and off as the Spa Pavilion was formally closed after 103 years as a venue for seafront entertainment.

People had known for almost a year that closure was coming – with 12 months nowhere near long enough for either the council or campaigners to find a way to keep it open.

Mayor of Felixstowe Mike Deacon said he was “very disappointed”.

“I think it’s a great shame for the town and I think it is very short-sighted of the people at the district council to lose something as big and important as that to our town,” he said.

“To have the Spa sitting boarded up in the midst of the newly-renovated gardens will be awful. I am quite upset by it all.

“I think the council should have recognised the problems and taken action much sooner – even the consultants said twice as much money a year should have been put into it.”

Sylvia Lowe, director of the Dennis Lowe Theatre Company, said: “It is just so sad – I am devastated. We never believed this could happen.

“All through the run people have been coming up to us and telling us how sad they feel, how terrible it is, and asking what will happen and what are we going to do. I just cannot answer those questions because I don’t know the answers.

“I think the council acted too late and should have looked at the situation several years ago. They should have see that it was not working and agreed to do something, to explore what was going on, and they would have had much longer to find a solution and sorted it out. If they had done that, it might have been different situation now.”

Her daughter Suzie Lowe, director of Aladdin, the last show at the Spa, and part of the SPA (Spa Pavilion Associates) campaign group trying to form a trust to take over the venue, was more upbeat.

“Never say never,” she said.

“There hasn’t been a year gone by where I haven’t done a show at the theatre. I’m positive something will happen. The council want to see it survive, they want to see it as a theatre. I can see where they’re coming from in terms of ‘financially this isn’t working, we need to re-think it’.

“I can’t say too much but it’s the most positive I’ve heard them speak. If they can figure out a way it’s going to be financially viable they will go with it 100 per cent. Fingers crossed.”

2 comments

  • It's about time this god forsaken eye sore is knocked down. The area needs some class. I would like to see another supermarket like Waitrose put on the site to raise the profile of "cesspit" Felixstowe and finally drag it into the 21st Century rather than living in the 1970's still like it has been for the past 40 years !!!

    Report this comment

    the opinion man

    Monday, January 7, 2013

  • This is a crying shame! The council has a lot to answer for as it was them who a few years ago took it out of the management of the Ambassadour Theatre Group, a highly reputable and well established company and put it into the hands of a company who were clearly not up to the job. Wether this was a deliberate attempt on their part to run the theatre down is clearly debatable but I just hope that when it comes to the next local elections I hope the people who are understandably so upset about this remember who was responsible for it's demise and vote accordingly! The one good thing about it is that it now means I (& others) now have no reason at all to visit their dying tip of a town that even makes Ipswich look good!

    Report this comment

    planeman

    Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

The Orwell Bridge is likely to close on February 23 because of high winds caused by Storm Doris. Picture: MICK WEBB

The Orwell Bridge is likely to be shut tomorrow as winds of up to 70mph batter parts of Suffolk and north Essex.

Thousands of motorists were affected by the rush hour closure of the Orwell Bridge in November 2016

Motorists could be facing travel chaos in and around Ipswich tomorrow as high winds threaten to close part of the A14.

Storm clouds are gathering over Suffolk as Storm Doris approaches, with an amber weather warning issued for Thursday, February 23. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown

A storm is set to hit Suffolk and north Essex tomorrow – the not-quite-so-terrifyingly-named Storm Doris.

Piper's Vale Community Primary School, Ipswich.

The east London academy trust which runs Ipswich Academy is set to take over another under-performing primary school in the Nacton area of Ipswich.

Police at the scene of the stabbing close to Wherstead Road in Ipswich. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Three men remain are in police custody after a man was stabbed in Ipswich last night.

FUTURE: A computer generated image of the new rail terminal at the Port of Felixstowe

The European Union has funnelled an average of £135.7m to Norfolk and Suffolk each year since 2007, a new report by the region’s business and political leaders has found.

Rubbish found at Church Lane in Sproughton

A 36-year-old man from Ipswich has been prosecuted for fly-tipping just outside the town during 2016.

Marks & Spencer Martlesham refurbished opening. Picture: GREGG BROWN

One of Britain’s best-known high street names has taken a huge step towards attracting out-of-town shoppers with the opening of major extension to its Martlesham food store.

Another naughty carrot in the Vulgar Veg competition 2016, by Van Meuwen

Have you grown a curvy carrot, a really odd onion or a potato that looks like Wayne Rooney?

File picture. Police are appealing for witnesses. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Police are searching for a motorist who approached a 17-year-old moped rider in Barham, on Wednesday, February 15 with what is believed to be a knife.

Most read

Most commented

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Topic pages

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter
MyDate24 MyPhotos24