Cheers! Lowestoft’s Marina Theatre is toast of the town

THE CHAMPAGNE was flowing this week as Lowestoft's Marina Theatre was saved from an uncertain future with confirmation that a charitable trust had been given the green-light to take over the running of the venue in a 15-year deal.

Admitting it was an 'historic' decision, members of Waveney District Council's cabinet gave their unanimous approval on Tuesday evening to the establishment of the not-for-profit trust to manage and operate the theatre, consisting of the venue's management and the Friends of the Marina group.

And there was applause in the council chamber as the decision was ratified.

Under the new contract, the council will still own the building and will continue to subsidise it with �150,000-a-year for the first four years – with future funding levels to be negotiated – but the new charitable trust will now take on the day-to-day running of the venue and look to source finance from other areas.

Announcing that the deal to secure the Marina's future had been approved, Stephen Ardley, Waveney portfolio holder for healthy communities, said: 'It is brilliant news... I made a promise that I would try my best to save a full-time Marina Theatre, and that has been kept with this decision.'

Other councillors also welcomed the decision.

Wendy Mawer said: 'Hooray – let them get on with it, I wish them all well.' And Ken Sale added: 'Throughout Waveney this decision will make a whole lot of people very pleased.'

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Last year, the council attempted unsuccessfully to find a new operator for the Marina. But concerns grew for its future when The Journal revealed that a new procurement process suggested that it could be offered without the requirement for it to be a theatre, and that it could become 'an entertainments venue' instead.

Theatre manager Martin Halliday, who led the bid to take on the Marina, said: 'I'm delighted a solution has been achieved.

'Over the past nine years we have turned the Marina around, introducing a vast array of quality events and in turn seen audiences more than treble, enabling the venue to establish a strong reputation within the theatre industry.

'We are now looking forward to working with our partners, Waveney District Council and the Friends of the Marina, as we build on past achievements and create the new charitable company to operate the theatre.

'Since news of our bid was made public, we've received numerous offers of support, and we will, of course, be following these up; but in the short term I would ask the public to assist us in the best way possible – buy tickets!

Peter Wilson, chairman of the Friends of the Marina, added: 'The past few years have been a worrying time for both the staff at the theatre and many thousands of theatregoers.

'The Friends of the Marina welcomes the news that the bid to run the venue has been accepted and looks forward to supporting the management team as we enter an exciting new era both for the Marina and the cultural life of the area.'

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