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Lowestoft: Last curtain call for Marina?

PUBLISHED: 07:09 13 November 2009 | UPDATED: 15:12 06 July 2010

CALLS were made this week for a council-run theatre to be moved into the hands of a trust to help secure its future.

It comes after fears were raised that the final curtain could be coming down on the Marina Theatre, in Lowestoft, after cutbacks have forced management at the town centre complex to reduce its star-studded line up for the coming year.

CALLS were made this week for a council-run theatre to be moved into the hands of a trust to help secure its future.

It comes after fears were raised that the final curtain could be coming down on the Marina Theatre, in Lowestoft, after cutbacks have forced management at the town centre complex to reduce its star-studded line up for the coming year.

With no new year's eve concert, no ballet, no operas, no musicals and no ice show planned in the months ahead there have been suggestions that the reduced programme has been forced on the Marina by its bosses at Waveney District Council who have carried out swingeing budget cuts.

This week, the Friends of the Marina Theatre were left to ponder the future for the venue as shows that had become commonplace have disappeared from the programme.

But despite this, another top class and varied programme of entertainment, which includes a number of named artistes, has been signed to appear at the theatre - and the call today is for people to continue to support the new programme in the months ahead.

They include Birds of A Feather star Lesley Joseph, the national tour of hit comedy Hi De Hi, Peppa Pig's Party, Ken Dodd, John Challis and Sue Holderness aka televisions Boycie and Marlene, Jane McDonald, the Bay City Rollers, Charlie Landsborough, Marty Wilde, Paul Jones and the Manfreds, Joe Brown, Dr Feelgood, Roy Chubby Brown, Jethro, Jim Davidson and Strictly Come Dancing favourites Brian Fortuna and Khristina Rihanoff, plus the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a series of concerts as part of its sixth year of residency at the Marina.

The Journal has however learned that the new brochure lists just 16 events in the 90-day period between next January and the end of March.

At the same period this year, there were the likes of a major international ballet, Billy Ocean, Chinese State Circus, Errol Brown, Hayley Westenra and a national touring production of 'Allo 'Allo.

This has not been lost on the patrons of the 750-seater venue, which has been hailed by councillors in the past as the “jewel in the crown” of the town.

“Is the Marina being micromanaged by people whose knowledge of the industry is very limited, and whose job it is not to look at the benefits of such an enterprise to the community but purely to react to edicts from above about budget cuts,” Len Jacklin said.

“It is very short sighted to cut short term expenditure at the expense of long term advantage. This all rather begs the question as to whether the Marina should be run by Waveney? A solution could be found by the council standing back and allowing the management which they, after all employ to do the job, get on and manage,” he added.

“A better alternative is to relinquish the responsibility and pass the Marina over to some form of a theatre trust, which has been done most successfully in other towns and cities.”

Nobody from the Marina was available for comment yesterday, however David Gallagher, head of service at the council, told The Journal that they were “fully supportive” of the theatre.

“The council is fully supportive of providing a long term sustainable service at the Marina and although a decision has not been made the council has not ruled out options for alternative management of any of its leisure facilities, including the theatre,” he said. Although successful in terms of programme, attendances and profile the theatre has run over budget for the last five years and any shortfall has usually been balanced by moving budgets from other services and leisure areas.

“This can only be detrimental to the provision of other services and clearly cannot continue,” he added.

“In these extremely challenging financial times we are determined to ensure that the service continues and that it also meets the approved budget set by the council, the staff continue to work on plans that will deliver a forward programme that considers all these factors. There are no budget or programme cuts planned,” he concluded.

For more information or to book seats for any shows in the new season, telephone the box office on 01502 533200.

See Journal Postbox.

What do you think? Should the Marina Theatre be allowed to run its own affairs and pass into the hands of a trust? Write to Mark Boggis, The Journal, 147 London Road North, Suffolk, NR32 1NB or e-mail mark.boggis@archant.co.uk


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