Marina Theatre is in the spotlight

Mark BoggisPLANS for a council-run theatre in Lowestoft to be moved into the hands of another operator have moved a step closer as it continues to run at a substantial loss.Mark Boggis

PLANS for a council-run theatre in Lowestoft to be moved into the hands of another operator have moved a step closer as it continues to run at a substantial loss.

A key meeting is set to 'explore options' for the town's Marina Theatre next week.

This comes three months after fears were first raised about the future of the historic 750-seater Edwardian theatre following a reduction in the programme.

With swingeing budget cuts from Waveney District Council meaning management at the town centre complex had to reduce the number of shows at the venue, concerns were raised from the Friends of the Marina Theatre.

Spokesman Len Jacklin called on the council at the time '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.'

The council's cabinet are set to meet next Thursday to discuss a 'management options appraisal of leisure services.'

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Included in this report to councillors are options for the Marina Theatre, and it states: 'The Marina Theatre has posed and continues to pose a serious risk to the council in terms of financial performance, with the council's approved budget not being met for several years.

'Measures have been put in place in order to rectify the position and close the gap for this year whilst also meeting next year's target. Whilst the management options for the theatre could be similar to the remainder of the council's leisure portfolio (Local Trust, private provider etc), we are considering a stand alone option initially, in order to fully explore this unique venue's options, whilst potentially not ruling out retaining the theatre within the council's wider leisure option,' the report adds.

In September 2007 the council began to explore options for the theatre.

A report before councillors next week says that placing a separate advert for expressions of interest for the operation of the theatre would place the council in the best position to keep its options open at this stage.

'Once expressions of interest have been received officers will be able to explore these in detail and an options report will be brought back through the overview and scrutiny committee prior to the final decision being made.'

The theatre, which has been home to the world famous Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for the past five years as part of a prestigious residency that continues this year with a series of concerts, could now come under the control of a trust as an advertisement for 'expressions of interest' to operate the theatre in the future looks set to be made.

The situation with Beccles Public Hall is also similar, in that the report states the venue 'still operates at a significant deficit' despite 'significant investment.'

And with more works needed within the venue, the council are proposing to look at the venue for 'operation or disposal for alternative use' as expressions of interest are also sought.