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SOS for Lowestoft’s Marina Theatre

PUBLISHED: 09:48 26 November 2010

A RALLYING cry went out this week to safeguard Lowestoft’s Marina Theatre as supporters joined forces with business leaders and councillors to try to ensure the future of “the jewel in Waveney’s crown”.

The Journal revealed last week that a five-month search for a new group to take on the day-to-day running of the council-run theatre had failed and that another lengthy procurement process was now required.

However, major concerns have been raised because the new proposals suggest that the Marina be re-advertised in a way that could see it no longer remaining a full-time theatre but instead becoming an “entertainments or leisure” venue.

Since our last edition hit the streets The Journal has been inundated with calls, emails and letters from supporters of the Edwardian theatre.

Many urge Waveney District Council to do everything in its power to save the venue; others offer potential solutions to the crisis.

This week, the Enterprise Lowestoft community interest company sent a letter to Waveney council leader Mark Bee calling on him to meet its representatives, plus senior councillors and officers,“to explore a positive way forward”.

James Reeder, its director, stated: “Enterprise Lowestoft was invited to tender for the recent contract for taking over the Marina and is working with a passionate group who are determined to help the council find a sustainable solution to retain this unique and much-loved cultural facility.”

The group asks Mr Bee to discuss its “genuine offer” to find a solution, saying it is confident this can be achieved together.

“After attending the Big Society conference at the OrbisEnergy Centre in Lowestoft I cannot think of a better example to demonstrate how The Big Society could work,” Mr Reeder said. “The newly-constituted Friends of the Marina Theatre have hundreds of members with many of them ready to assist in numerous ways to help make the Marina viable.”

Meanwhile, a proposed “call-in” of the council’s report “Future Operation of the Marina Theatre”, by Waveney’s opposition Labour group, was this week ruled invalid by the authority, despite it receiving cross-party support.

Peter Byatt, speaking for the Labour group, said he and his fellow members were “deeply concerned” by the ruling, which prevented them from discussing the report further. “We still feel there are serious flaws in the way this report was put forward and we are calling on the chairman of the community safety, health and wellbeing scrutiny sub-committee, to call this report back,” he said.

“We would also add, in our backing of the Marina, that this is a great chance for the people of Lowestoft to get behind us, vote with their feet and support the pantomime by booking at the theatre.”

These were similar sentiments echoed by Lowestoft town centre manager Emma King, who told The Journal: “The theatre plays such a strong part in the community. To lose it would be ripping the heart out of the town, so the people of Lowestoft need to turn out to back the theatre by booking tickets at what is the jewel in Waveney’s crown.”

This week, the council’s portfolio holder for healthy communities, Stephen Ardley, allayed fears that the venue would close.

In a letter published in today’s Journal, he says: “I would like to provide some reassurance for those concerned about the future of the Marina Theatre... The council is very disappointed that our ambition for others to operate the theatre on our behalf has so far proved unviable...However, let me be absolutely clear: our number one priority is to ensure that the Marina Theatre remains in place, with investment to safeguard its future for generations to come.”

For Mr Ardley’s letter and views from readers, see Postbox on pages 22/23.

What do you think? Show your support for the Marina Theatre by writing to The Journal, 147 London Road North, Lowestoft, NR32 1NB or e-mail your letters to: mark.boggis@archant.co.uk Please be sure to include your name and address.


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