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East Anglia Future 50

Man who bought seaside theatre for £1 rules out flats plans

PUBLISHED: 19:00 29 March 2019

Owner and operator of the Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe businessman Ray Anderson

Owner and operator of the Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe businessman Ray Anderson

Archant

It has been a tough journey for businessman Ray Anderson, who took over the Spa Pavilion in Felixstowe in 2015, but four years on they are booking names including Jules Holland and Kerry Katona.

Kerry Katona is performing in The Little Mermaid this Easter Picture: Ian West/PA PhotosKerry Katona is performing in The Little Mermaid this Easter Picture: Ian West/PA Photos

The Essex man, who paid a nominal £1 for the closed-down theatre, said: “We are on track for our best year. We have more shows each year, and that means more customers and income for the bars and restaurant too.

He said developers have been eyeing up the seafront venue but vowed to continue his bid to keep the landmark theatre going.

Mr Anderson continued: “We have a very busy April, and we are booking shows up to Christmas and into the New Year.”

He said they average about six or seven shows a month but April is going to be a bumper month for the team.

“In April we have six or seven shows a week. It is very pleasing.

“We have Giovanni from Strictly Come Dancing, Those Were The Days show, and Nat King Cole and Bruno Mars tribute acts and there is Kerry Katona and Basil Brush in the pantomime The Little Mermaid at Easter.

And it doesn’t stop there.

“We have got some bigger acts. Jules Holland is coming in May, with about 30 musicians.”

Mr Anderson and his business partner, who together run NRG Theatres, bought the theatre from the council in May 2015 after it had been closed for more than two years.

“We re-opened in November 2015. When we took over it was at zero, the theatre had been closed.

“We had a lot of trouble booking acts, as so many are booked up a year/18 months ahead.

“We managed to re-open with The Commitments and there was a lot of public support from people wanting to see the theatre in use.

“That first year was very challenging and we had to get the restaurant established as well.”

MORE: Spa Pavilion re-opens

“What we have seen, the past two years, has been income going up 20% year-on-year, from the theatre and the restaurants.

“We are getting close to £1m turnover now, and we are providing jobs - around 30 full and part-time. We always try and buy locally in the area so money circulates within the community.”

However, the battle is not won for the Spa, Art Deco building is in need of some TLC, which is likely to be expensive.

“We could do with a bit more investment. The lovely old Art Deco theatre was built in 1937, and it needs constant maintenance and repair work.

“Unlike council-owned theatres and venues we get no subsidies, or Arts Council money,” said Mr Anderson.

MORE: Memories of the Spa Pavilion

He hopes that the ongoing regeneration of the port town will further boost the theatre.

“Felixstowe is really upping its game. The seafront gardens look great again, and there are always visitors.

“This is as good a seaside town as anywhere in the country.”

Various development plans for the Spa have been suggested, he said.

“We would like a little bit more investment, but it is no good going to the banks.

“Some people who have approached me want to knock it down and build a block of flats.

“But my business partner and I feel that it is our duty, and the legacy we leave, to make sure there is a theatre here for another 100 years.

“I would like to think it will be here long after we have gone.

“But if a large theatre company wanted to come along and take it on, of course we would consider it. Big companies do have advantages and money behind them.”

He added: “If not we will soldier on. I still loving going to work each day. It has become my life.”

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