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Lowestoft Players bring new life to Bethel

PUBLISHED: 14:18 22 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:03 06 July 2010

A YEAR after it was sold because of the decline of Lowestoft's fishing industry, the town's Bethel church has been officially reopened as the headquarters of an amateur dramatics group.

A YEAR after it was sold because of the decline of Lowestoft's fishing industry, the town's Bethel church has been officially reopened as the headquarters of an amateur dramatics group.

The Bethel, in Battery Green Road, was put up for sale in 2008 by owners the British International Sailor's Society (BISS) because of the dwindling numbers of seafarers in the town.

It was bought by the Lowestoft Players and now after twelve months of refurbishment work, it has been officially opened as their new headquarters and rehearsal space.

A charitable trust set up the Bethel in the 1800s to provide a building for Christian worship for sailors and seagoing families and the present building was opened in 1899, but after more than 100 years as a place of worship, it had to be sold to help BISS support fishermen elsewhere.

The building's main chapel has become the group's rehearsal studio, complete with stained glass window, beautiful beamed roof and even the original church organ.

The rest of the building has been transformed into a green room with new kitchen, a small rehearsal room and storage areas for the thousands of props and costumes which have featured in performances during the decades of Lowestoft Player's shows in the town.

Stephen Wilson from the Lowestoft Players said: “Having all this space for rehearsals is just fantastic, and it has so much potential for us to do new things as we have space for an audience in here as well.

“It has been lovely for us to be able to convert the Bethel because it is a beautiful building and it's in a great location. It's also nice for the building to be full of life, singing and music again.”

He added: “It has taken us the best part of a year to finish the work, we have completely rewired everywhere and gutted part of the building to rebuild a kitchen and create a second rehearsal studio, but it has been well worth it.”

Before moving into the Bethel, the group was based at Stradbroke Road in a building loaned from the local Catchpole family and Hilda Catchpole officially opened the Bethel at a ceremony on Friday night.

The Players have been rehearsing at the Bethel for their pantomime Aladdin, which is at the Marina Theatre from tomorrow until Sunday January 31.

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