Players unveil vision for £1.5m theatre expansion to create new ‘cultural hub’
PUBLISHED: 08:40 22 June 2018 | UPDATED: 08:41 22 June 2018
A theatre company has unveiled ambitious plans to expand a prominent venue with a major £1.5m development.
The “exciting vision” was launched this week by the Lowestoft Players, as they aim to develop the Players Theatre at The Bethel and create a landmark building for the town.
Currently celebrating their 50th anniversary year, the group said they were “thrilled” to showcase the plans for the theatre, which have been in development for more than two years.
And as they aim to submit plans to Waveney District Council soon, hopes are high that their dreams of creating a “cultural hub” for the community in the centre of Lowestoft could become reality.
A Lowestoft Players spokesman said: “The Players have always had a vision to expand and offer Lowestoft a landmark building for the future and beyond.
“Alongside the neighbouring Marina Theatre, the vision could help form the basis of a ‘theatre district’ within the heart of Lowestoft which will play a key part in creating a cultural hub, thus contributing to the regeneration of a central part of Lowestoft.”
The vision would see the creation of a multi-purpose community arts centre with a conference and theatre facility, catering and hospitality on two levels, rehearsal rooms, exhibition space, a 300-seater theatre – an increase of 100 seats - three new rehearsal and dance studio spaces and a café/bar. The company unveiled the plans at a Making Waves Together conference at the Seagull Theatre on Wednesday.
Stephen Wilson, chairman of The Lowestoft Players, said: “This dream vision and its ultimate realisation will be the absolute icing on the cake - a versatile cultural hub for the community in the centre of town.”
Nick Garrod, director of the Lowestoft Players, added: “This is a chance to create something special for the town – an opportunity for a major community arts centre. We want to maximise the potential of the building and create something quite stunning.”
The next stage is to produce a detailed design and cost estimates, as well as looking at funding opportunities and developing a business plan. Plans for the development can be viewed at the venue’s open day on Sunday, July 1, from 10am to 4pm.
The Bethel in Battery Green Road is a former Fisherman’s Mission and was originally built in 1890.
The building was purchased by the Lowestoft Players in 2009.
They began transforming the building with the initial plans to develop it as a base and rehearsal premises for their shows which they performed at the Marina Theatre in Lowestoft.
Then in 2009, through the Players’ Charitable Trust and supported by local and national grants, they began to transform the building into a multi-user venue and creative space, incorporating a 200-seater theatre.
Currently the venue attracts more than 20 regular uses each week, with the Players group performing two or three smaller shows each year, while still performing at the Marina Theatre as well.
If the proposals get the go-ahead, the new building would provide Lowestoft with three great venues of different sizes and appeal at the Marina Theatre, Seagull Theatre and the Players Theatre.
Stephen Tring, of McArthur Tring Architects who are working on the vision with The Players, said: “The exciting plans for The Players Theatre will provide an opportunity for the company to expand on a successful and creative programme of events and productions for the local community and the whole of East Anglia.
“The new space will provide much needed facilities to include rehearsal and workshop spaces and cafes as well as an improved entrance, box office and auditorium.
“The Bethel is a fine building of historic interest and any addition needs to be sympathetic to this.
“The new design opens up the arches of the old chapel which links the building to the new structure where natural light animates the space during the day.”
Mr Wilson added: “I think the planning application could be imminent, and if we get approval the build would be planned in phases.”
Mr Garrod said the proposed designs had been commended at this week’s conference.
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