Regal reopens in style

IT was a right royal night for Stowmarket's Regal Theatre as it reopened to a huge round of applause, five months after an horrific arson attack almost closed it for good.

Elliot Furniss

IT was a right royal night for Stowmarket's Regal Theatre as it reopened to a huge round of applause, five months after an horrific arson attack almost closed it for good.

The town's MP David Ruffley was also on hand to toast the success of the Regal team, who have overseen a raft of upgrades to coincide with the repair work.

Manager David Marsh said thanks to everyone who had contributed to the reopening of the Regal and helped prepare the special gala opening night.

He said: “Thanks to everyone for coming tonight - all the acts who are performing for free. We couldn't do it without them. Also to Stowmarket Town Council, Rose Builders and Zurich Insurance who all helped bring it back to its former glory.

“On the night of the fire, I had all the staff here in tears. It's more than a job. They live it and they love it. None of them have left in the six months we have been closed but they were seconded to other council departments and they really enjoyed that but we've got their expertise back tonight.''

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Writing in the programme, town mayor Vera Waspe said: “The fire came at the worst possible time for the Regal. The venue had been enjoying its most successful period. It was a devastating blow to everyone associated with the venue.

“However, it is a great credit to David Marsh and his team that since the day after the fire all they have been focussed on is getting the Regal up and running again and making it better than ever.

“If one good thing comes out of the fire it will be that more people are now aware of this great venue and make use of it.''

Appearing at the reopening gala last night were the Stowmarket District Scouts, pianist Delia Barrow, 15-year-old singer songwriter Jazz Bullen, dancers from Stowmarket Bellycise and the Stowmarket Operatic and Dramatic Society.

The Regal first opened in 1936 and to celebrate its return, a host of special film screenings have been lined up for the weekend with tickets priced at a nostalgic five pence. Some 3,000 people have eagerly taken up the bargain tickets and Mr Marsh said he hoped many of those would come back on a regular basis, having enjoyed their visit to the theatre.

The theatre closed last September after being targeted by a late-night arson attack.

The cinema screen and stage area were badly damaged while the backstage area and roof also needed repairing. The management team took the closure as an opportunity to redecorate much of the inside of the building and add new features, including extra toilets and office facilities.

For details about future screenings, ticket availability and show times, visit www.regalstowmarket.co.uk.