Crunch talks on future of popular Lowestoft hall
13:47 22 September 2012
Archant © 2012
It is believed to have been one of the first purpose-built Fisher Theatres in Britain.
And as a Grade II Listed Building in Lowestoft marks a special anniversary this month, campaigners are calling on locals to turn out for an important event next weekend.
Having opened its doors in September 1812, 200 years on the future of Crown Street Hall in Crown Street West, Lowestoft, is at risk according to a campaign group that has been set up to preserve the building for community activity.
On Saturday, September 29 a free open day – complete with theatre, music and a small exhibition – will take place at the hall.
John Ellerby, a spokesman for the Crown Street Hall campaign committee, said: “There will be an open day to commemorate 200 years since Crown Street Hall first opened its doors. It will also be the launch of a public consultation into the future of the hall.
“The future of this fine Grade II Listed Building is at risk – it needs your help. Crown Street Hall was probably the first custom-built Fisher Theatre in Britain. It opened in September 1812, 200 years ago.”
Since then the venue has hosted a wide range of community groups and activities – having been The Assembly Rooms, The Mission Hall, an early form of a community centre, local Government offices and the home of a craft centre for Lowestoft College.
Mr Ellerby added: “For the last 30 years, it has been a thriving, locally managed community centre. But now it is in dire straits.
“It needs considerable repair and modernisation to make it again into a fine and utterly unique community centre.”
Calls for support to help it flourish in the future have gone out ahead of a public consultation being launched next Saturday.
At the moment the building is used for sports, children’s groups, music groups, art groups and a group for people with learning disabilities.
Mr Ellerby added: “All these groups use the hall despite its inadequate facilities and dilapidated state and we would love to be able to provide a better quality experience for the groups. With proper facilities and services the potential of the hall is enormous.”
Ahead of next Saturday’s open day, locals who have used the hall in the past 50 years are being invited to send in their thoughts and images and attend on the day.
Mr Ellerby said: “We are compiling a history of the hall and the people who have used it over the last 50 years. We want you to see what it has been, what it is now and help us to imagine what it could be like in the future – so come along and chat with members of the campaign committee and have a free cup of coffee or tea and a cake!”
In 1987, a booklet by Lowestoft historian Ivan Bunn, From Footlights To Disco – A Short History of Crown Street Hall – was published to commemorate the official opening of Crown Street Community Hall.
Highlighting 175 years of the venue, the booklet concluded: “The history of Crown Street Hall has not ended. The establishment of the Community Centre simply marks the beginning of another chapter in its long and chequered career.
“Of one thing there can be little doubt, through the present and future committees it will continue to do what it has done so well for the last 175 years — give service to the Community.”
●Contact the Crown Street Hall campaign committee via www.crownstreethall.org.uk or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org