Ken Dodd backs the call to save the Marina Theatre

SHOWBIZ legend Ken Dodd this week threw his weight behind the campaign to save top quality live entertainment in Lowestoft, declaring: 'The Marina must be kept as a working theatre'.

The veteran comedian, whose series of sell-out shows at the venue have regularly run on into the early hours, is one of a number of senior figures from the music and entertainment industry who have spoken out in support of the Marina.

He told the Journal: 'It must be kept as a working theatre...Within the entertainment industry the Marina Theatre is regarded as one of the finest and best-run theatres in the country. Long may it continue and it does so with my full support.'

Doddy's comments come amid fears over the long-term future of the Edwardian theatre.

A fortnight ago The Journal revealed that Waveney District Council had failed to find a new group to take on the day-to-day running of the venue following a five-month search, meaning another lengthy procurement process was now required.

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However, major concerns were raised after it emerged that the Marina could be re-advertised in a way that could see it no longer remaining a full-time theatre but instead becoming an 'entertainments or leisure' venue.

Doddy's sentiments echo those of the chairman of the world-famous Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Andrew Sippings, who spoke to a capacity crowd at the RPO's concert at the Marina last Saturday - its final performance of the 2010 season.

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The RPO's prestigious residency at the Marina has been hailed across the country and, while thanking local theatre-goers for their support, Mr Sippings revealed how much the RPO liked coming to Lowestoft. He said: 'We very much hope that the theatre we have today will be what we return to in the future.' This prompted warm applause from the appreciative audience.

Another to speak out in support of the Marina this week was producer Bruce James, who has been responsible for bringing numerous plays, farces and dramas to Lowestoft. He told the Journal: 'From a producer's point of view, putting it out as a leisure or entertainment venue is a very backward step to what the Marina Theatre team have achieved over the last few years.

'I can't see how that helps anyone - and it almost sounds like a death knell to the theatre side of it.

'All of our shows have proved extremely popular in Lowestoft, all my performers really enjoy coming to Lowestoft and there must be a great swell of opinion in the town to keep the Marina as a theatre.'

Meanwhile, the Friends of the Marina Theatre have been working closely with the Enterprise Lowestoft community interest company this week to 'find a solution' to the problems surrounding the theatre's future.

In a letter to The Journal, Friends spokesman Mike Pinner said: 'We urge the elected representatives of Waveney District Council to meet with them at their earliest convenience to work together in co-operation with local supporters to bring about an end to the uncertainty tainting the theatre's future - the theatre has been in limbo now for far too long.'

Waveney District Council, which is facing up to major cuts in its budget following a big drop in government funding, reiterated yesterday that it wanted to 'protect the future of the theatre,' which is running at a �200,000-a-year loss.

Stephen Ardley, Waveney's potrfolio holder for healthy communities, said: 'Waveney has shown in the recent past, with Beccles Lido Ltd and the new leisure trust, its commitment to effective local partnerships which deliver what our communities want and need.

'Our attitude to the future management of the theatre is no different and we remain confident that the Marina's future can be secured.'

Mr Ardley confirmed that council leader Mark Bee had received a letter from Enterprise Lowestoft, asking for a meeting.

'The council has received the letter, and others, from local groups expressing an interest in taking on the management of the theatre,' he said. 'We share the determination of everyone concerned to protect the future of the theatre and naturally we will consider these letters very carefully and respond directly to the groups and individuals concerned.

'We are very keen to listen to a variety of different offers, each of which will need to satisfy business and financial criteria which exist to safeguard the Marina in the long term...And in order to ensure the legal processes are not compromised, each approach will be considered carefully and in the same way, with all interested parties given a clear opportunity to formally submit and discuss their proposals.'

Your views on the Marina - Postbox, pages 22 and 23

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