First glimpse at major revamp planned for Felixstowe’s iconic Spa Pavilion

A rough illustration of the scale of the proposed Felixstowe Spa Pavilion development when the medium term investment...

A rough illustration of the scale of the proposed Felixstowe Spa Pavilion development when the medium term investment programme is complete. It may contain new housing and parking areas Photo: Spa Pavilion - Credit: Archant

Felixstowe’s Spa Pavilion is planning a major development, in the wake of a £746,000 grant from the Arts Council administed Culture Recovery Fund, which will boost facilties for the public and may add a residential area and extra car parking.

The Spa Pavilion in Felixstowe, which is looking for planning permission to start an extensive investment programme in the...

The Spa Pavilion in Felixstowe, which is looking for planning permission to start an extensive investment programme in the theatre and restaurant facilities Picture: Spa Pavilion - Credit: Archant

The seafront theatre is about to apply for planning permission to build a balcony on the front of the building and create a larger ground floor terrace café, which can also be used as a function room or small performance space.

The work is being funded by a commercial loan agreed at the end of October, made possible following the grant from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund. Phase one of the project is expected to cost £400,000.

The new loan will be used to install air conditioning and heating to enable the theatre to offer greater comfort to theatregoers, as well as for visitors to its café and restaurants.

Director Ray Anderson said: “These are challenging but exciting times for us.

Ray Anderson at Felixstowe's Spa Pavilion. Photo: Stephen Foster

Ray Anderson at Felixstowe's Spa Pavilion. Photo: Stephen Foster - Credit: Archant

“The certainty which the Covid recovery funding has brought us has also enabled us to obtain further loans that we can use to improve the strength of the underlying business and we’re also working hard to ensure that our audience feels safe to return.

“Ever since we bought the building in 2015, these improvements have been our dream as they will secure the future of the theatre for many generations.

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“The balcony and increased café space under it are an essential first step on that journey.

“The increased trading potential afforded by the balcony should enable us to release funds for the next steps in our exciting journey of repairing the damage of the 30 years prior to our purchase, when there was a total lack of investment in the building and its equipment.”

Mr Anderson added that he was extremely grateful that audiences had been patient and understanding with the cancellations, postponements and rescheduling forced upon them by the ongoing Covid crisis.

He said: “At this time, we would also like to put on record our gratitude to our customers who have accepted tickets for new show dates, sometimes more than once, vouchers or alternative shows, as well as those who have joined our Friend of The Spa scheme.

“This has enabled us to plan to re-open and put shows on during the crisis.

“Without a good level of sales for each show, the performers would not come to Felixstowe, so we’re grateful to all of our customers for helping us to bring the theatre back to life in these most unusual of times.

“We have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to put ourselves in this position of strength to survive the crisis and ensure that we can honour all of our obligations to both ticketholders and performers.

“The new lockdown delays our plans slightly but we are still full steam ahead to re-open in December with a brilliant season of covid-compliant shows.”

This development is part of a longer five-year plan which will completely refurbish, extend and modernise the theatre, to incorporate a larger main auditorium and small community performance space.

“This will enable us to compete more equally with the larger state-funded regional theatres around us while strengthening our close links with the amateur and community groups who produce such excellent work for us now,” said Mr Anderson.

“Our medium-term vision, which we have had since acquiring the building, is for a smaller theatre space which can be operated at a much lower cost, to enable us to attract an even wider mix of performances while the larger main auditorium will enable us to attract more of the larger ‘stars’ than at present.

“Additional reheasal and scenery space planned within this larger project will enable us to host the Dennis Lowe Theatre Company as a permanent production company for in-house shows, as well as providing increased hospitality and meeting spaces to enable us to attract conferences, weddings and other large functions.”

The Spa Pavilion plans to reopen in the run-up to Christmas with the Spa panto Cinderella, directed by Suzie Lowe, from the Dennis Lowe Theatre Company.

This will be followed in the New Year with a trio of Strictly Come Dancing stars.

On Friday, February 19, Kevin and Joanne Clifton bring their rescheduled show, An Evening With... to the Spa.

This is followed by the return of Giovanni Pernice, with his new show This Is Me on Thursday, March 25 at 7.30pm.

Then Strictly Come Dancing’s old-school professionals Ian Waite and Vincent Simone return to the Spa on Friday, April 23 at 8pm with their spectacular Act Two.

Tickets for all shows are available at the online box office.

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