Trust heralds a bright future for the Marina Theatre in Lowestoft

A NEW era has dawned for Lowestoft's largest theatre.

After a period of uncertainty, the future of the Marina is now looking much brighter, thanks to the setting up of a new trust to take over the running of the historic venue from Waveney District Council.

Its members – recruited from the local community and theatre industry – will now work with the council and theatre management team towards an official handover later this year, subject to approval by councillors.

The chairman of the Marina Theatre Trust is a familiar figure for many local theatregoers – Hazel Clover.

She has 25 years' experience of working in the arts, theatre and entertainment business, in a career that has included managing art centres, concert halls, festivals, residencies and theatres.

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Norfolk born and educated, she most recently managed the Regent Theatre in Ipswich, and De Montfort Hall and Gardens in Leicester.

'I'm committed to and passionate about the preservation and development of theatres,' she said.

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'I have professional and family ties to East Anglia and am therefore delighted to join the board of trustees.'

The theatre's manager Martin Halliday, who led the bid to operate the Marina as a charitable trust, has been appointed its chief executive.

Since returning to Lowestoft 10 years ago, he has been widely credited for turning around the Marina's fortunes.

And earlier this year he received the prestigious Encore theatre manager of the year award, as well as seeing members of his team win awards at a national level. 'We have a splendid, extremely talented team guiding the future of the venue and this is a very exciting time for both theatregoers and the team here at the Marina,' he said.

'For the first time in three years we are now able to plan far enough ahead to attract some major events and we look forward to announcing these in due course.'

Waveney District Council will continue to own the Marina and its members and officers will work closely with the new board to ensure the Edwardian theatre is properly maintained and improved.

The council's deputy leader, Stephen Ardley, who has worked closely with the theatre management over many years, said: 'The Marina Theatre is without doubt the cultural jewel in the district's crown. Its continued success is vital to both the well being of local people and the areas economy.

'I am therefore delighted that, following a rigorous recruitment process we have been able to secure the support of such a diverse team with the specialist skills to ensure its long-term future.'

THE new trustees can draw on a wealth of experience in the business world, theatre and the arts.

They include former finance director of the Norwich Theatre Royal and Norwich Playhouse, Norman Cullingford who has spent more than 13 years successfully guiding the two popular regional venues, and David Blyth, who has more than 29 years' experience within theatre and arts management in the commercial and subsidised sectors.

Tracey Parkes, the director of workforce at NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney is a chartered fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development who has held senior HR leadership positions in the private and public sector for more than 16 years. She is also a member of the shadow board for NHS community services.

Also joining the board are local businessmen Joe Larter and Paul Bayfield. Mr Larter is a previous owner of Gunton Hall, and the originator of Pleasurewood Hills and a number of other successful local attractions, while Mr Bayfield is the proprietor of Lowestoft bakers' Bushells and managing director of Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival.

Waveney District Council is also represented on the trust by councillors Paddy Flegg and Ian Graham. Mrs Flegg has represented the Halesworth area for more than nine years. Now retired, she. worked in administration at a London University and managed a small office for several years in Suffolk. She said: 'I have a great interest in seeing our lovely theatre survive.'

Mr Graham was born and raised in Lowestoft and is currently councillor for the Harbour ward.

'At the recent elections I campaigned to keep the Marina as a theatre and will do my best to ensure the trust is the success I know it can be,' mr Graham said.

The independent Friends of the Marina group is represented on the trust by its vice chairman and one of its founder members Mike Pinner. After working in education for most of his career, he was headteacher of Benjamin Britten High for nine years prior to his retirement, since when he has since been involved in educational consultancy.

'Having been involved with the hopes and fears of the Marina for some years, I am delighted and very relieved to note the quality and talents of trustees that the theatre has attracted,' he said. 'I believe we are on the road towards a new beginning for the Marina Theatre and rest assured that the Friends organisation will play its part.'

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