Venue's future finally brightens

IPSWICH Regent theatre today has a bright future – it looks set to be developed as the premier music venue for East Anglia.But non-musical theatrical productions are set to be scrapped after they failed to find an audience.

IPSWICH Regent theatre today has a bright future - it looks set to be developed as the premier music venue for East Anglia.

But non-musical theatrical productions are set to be scrapped after they failed to find an audience.

The strength of support for the venue - coupled with its success in attracting popular shows - has persuaded the new administration at Civic Centre to look at ways of developing it.

Culture and leisure spokeswoman Judy Terry said: "We had always said there was no logic in selling off the Corn Exchange, and people backed that view.

"The survey also showed great support for the Regent, and we have taken that into account as we draw up our strategy.

"Hazel Clover (Regent manager) is doing a great job in attracting big names and will be concentrating on music and comedy shows rather than theatrical productions which cut across what happens at the New Wolsey."

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The new administration's culture and leisure policy is to be discussed at next week's executive meeting at Civic Centre.

But it emerged today that the new administration is recommending that both the Regent and the Corn Exchange should be developed as venues for live entertainment.

It is not certain that next week's meeting of the executive will agree the recommendation - but it would be surprising if it turned it down because the executive is dominated by Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors who have drawn up the proposal.

The future of the Regent was thrown into question because the new Conservative-led administration was known to be concerned about the amount it was costing to run.

Last year the theatre lost a £782,000 - but a survey set up by the former Labour administration showed their was a strong level of support for the theatre in Ipswich.

The results are believed to have been greeted with surprise by some councillors who felt that most people were concerned about the cost of running the Regent.

Since the results of the survey were published, however, the popularity of the Regent has become even clearer.

Shows are booking at the venue through to the end of next year - a two-night performance by the Little Britain team in December 2005 sold out within hours of going on sale.

And tickets are also selling well for next November's visit by legendary American new wave band Blondie.

Earlier in the year, there are sell-out concerts by Girls Aloud, Lemar, Michael Ball and Daniel O'Donnell - and legendary American crooner Andy Williams is also coming to town.

Council leader Dale Jackson described the administration's recommendations on entertainment as: "Our Christmas present to Ipswich."

The news that both venues look set for a future under the new administration was welcomed by Labour's leisure spokesman John Mowles.

He said: "We always knew there was a great deal of support for the Regent, and I'm glad if the message has got across to the new administration.

"There were some people there who thought there were people out there who would be prepared to pay millions to take over the theatre - now perhaps they're realising it doesn't work like that."

Do you think both the Regent and Corn Exchange should be developed? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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