Marina Theatre: New hope

HOPES for the long-term future of Lowestoft's biggest theatre were raised this week as senior councillors and officials met with groups keen to take on its day-to-day running.

Concern has grown over recent weeks that live entertainment at the Marina could be in jepoardy, after Waveney District Council failed to find a new organisation to take over the theatre - and the Journal revealed that it could be readvertised as an 'entertainments or leisure' venue instead.

But on Wednesday, representatitives from The Friends of the Theatre, Enterprise Lowestoft and Lowestoft Players met council leader Mark Bee, assistant chief executive Arthur Charvonia and head of customer services and commercial partnerships David Gallagher, to discuss ways to safeguard its future as a 'premier theatre'.

Speaking after what was described as a 'constructive meeting', the groups said they were reassured by the council's commitment to the Marina's success.

Following a detailed and lengthy discussion, in which the groups expressed their concerns and hopes for the Marina's future, those who attended hailed it as 'an extremely productive meeting', which built understanding and a bond of trust between all parties.

James Reeder, of Enterprise Lowestoft, attended the meeting on behalf of the Friends and the Players.

'The leader (Mr Bee) confirmed the council's commitment to ensuring the Marina remains a premier theatre for Lowestoft and its improvement for the future,' Mr Reeder said.

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'He also told us that the council plans to extend its booking policy through until September 2011 at the earliest, which is reassuring for patrons who have bought tickets and will, I'm sure, continue to do so.

'It is frustrating that the council must follow an exhaustive procurement process. However I do understand that their hands are tied in this respect and, more importantly, we are completely reassured that the future of the theatre is safe,' he added.

'We all want the same thing, which is to continue building upon the improvements that the council have made to the theatre in recent years and to find a way to ensure that the theatre can become a more sustainable and professional first-class theatre venue for Lowestoft and the wider area.

'It is clear that the council do have the best interests of the theatre at heart and we will be working with them to make this happen,' Mr Reeder said.

Waveney leader Mark Bee the Journal: 'The meeting was constructive and really positive. It is understandable that people will worry about the future of the theatre. However I wanted to ensure that everyone understood our utter determination to safeguard its future.

'Despite some suggestions to the contrary, we all want exactly the same thing. This process will not be quick or straightforward – but our goal remains the same as ever: a fantastic, nationally renowned and sustainable theatre for the people of Lowestoft and Waveney.'

The latest developments come as a rallying call was issued this week, urging local people to support this year's Marina pantomime, Snow White and Sevene Dwarfs, which opens tomorrow <11>.

Mr Bee added: 'Any theatre depends on getting people through the door and the Marina is no different. We have some fantastic shows coming up including a brilliant pantomime so please show your support the best way possible!'

• Panto stars plea, page 6

• Panto preview, Guide

•Your views on the Marina - Postbox p22, p23

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