Lowestoft's Theatre Royal history

WHEN you hear the words 'Theatre Royal' you naturally think of Norwich, or possibly Bury St Edmunds.But for a short time in the 1960s Lowestoft had its own Theatre Royal.

WHEN you hear the words 'Theatre Royal' you naturally think of Norwich, or possibly Bury St Edmunds.

But for a short time in the 1960s Lowestoft had its own Theatre Royal.

The theatre, in London Road South, was built in the early 20th century. In the 1920s it was known as The Playhouse, before being rebranded as the Arcadia in 1952.

In November 1959 it was bought by Richard Armitage, of the Noel Gay Organisation. He renamed it the Theatre Royal and after three months of refurbishment he held a grand opening on February 8, 1960.


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Many people were invited along to attend, including Russ Conway, who was a client of Mr Armitage. Other guests included singer Eddie Falcon, the Duke of Grafton, Lord and Lady Edward Fitzroy, Lady Townshend, Lord and Lady Somerleyton, Sir Peter and Lady Greenwell, and Lady Gooch.

Mr Conway was asked by his agent and friend to write a march entitled Theatre Royal especially for the event. Just weeks later the performer, who was born Trevor Stanford, went on to record two other titles Rule Britannia and The Royal March.

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At some point the march was incorporated into the recording and the result was Royal Event. The piece would cause much controversy as it was released when Prince Andrew was born and some believed the musician was trying to cash-in on the occasion.

The Theatre Royal did not prove to be a success and closed its doors in September 1961. It was put up for auction the next month, but failed to sell. The following month Norwich businessman Roy Dashwood bought the theatre and would later turn it into a bingo hall named The Royal Casino. Today, it stands as the Hollywood Cinema.

This history of the theatre was compiled by Lowestoft historian Ivan Bunn and features amongst a tribute page to Russ Conway by Terry Horner, of West Sussex. For more on the musician and the story of Royal Event visit www.russconway.co.uk

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