Future of theatre under microscope

FELIXSTOWE: Multi-million pound proposals for a new Felixstowe theatre will be among options considered for the future of live entertainment in the town.

Consultants will be paid �40,000 to look at the future of the Spa Pavilion and then put together a business plan for the option chosen by councillors.

At this stage, all possibilities are being considered – ranging from an extensive re-modelling of the current seafront venue to improve it and provide facilities fit for the 21st century, to a possible new purpose-built theatre on land such as the Orwell High campus or where the old Herman de Stern stood on the south seafront.

The need to make changes to the Spa – which in the past few years has had new toilets, new seats, refurbished lounge and foyer, and new technical equipment – were identified three years ago in a report on the future of the town.

Now Suffolk Coastal council is planning to take the project forward as part of the regeneration of the resort.


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Over the past three years the theatre, which hosts 130 shows a year, has seen a 25 per cent reduction in audience numbers – down from 47,644 in 2007/08 to 35,662 in 2009/10.

There has been suggestions before that the Spa’s main auditorium should be reduced from 905 seats to around 500, so it suits big shows but also provides a comfortable venue for smaller productions such as drama, with re-modelling and extending of the building to create dance studios and workshops, and space for other cultural events.

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Suffolk Coastal cabinet member Mary Neale said: “The Spa needs to be considered both in terms of its role within the resort as a potential visitor attraction and its role as a community facility.

“Taking account of the previous studies and the current position, the proposal is to appoint a consultant to carry out an options appraisal into the suitability of the Spa to deliver the needs of local groups and the district council in a cost-effective way.”

The consultants’ report will look at “diverse, realistic, affordable options for the future of the theatre and arts provision” in the town.

Options may include re-modelling the Spa; public/private partnership development of the site; provision of theatre facilities on an alternative site; closure and absorption or reallocation of resources; consideration of alternative arts provision; and partnership management with the Marina Theatre, in Lowestoft.

The Spa is currently operated by Openwide Coastal Ltd until 2016, and paid an annual fee by of �241,353 by Suffolk Coastal.

? What should happen to the Spa Pavilion? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN, or you can e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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