Hundreds back theatre campaign

A campaign to save a north Suffolk community theatre has received a major boost after hundreds of people attended a public meeting to hear how they could play their part.

A campaign to save a north Suffolk community theatre has received a major boost after hundreds of people attended a public meeting to hear how they could play their part.

Organisers admitted they were overwhelmed by the huge turnout from well-wishers interested in how they could help to save

the Seagull Theatre in Lowestoft.

About 300 people packed into the town's Hotel Victoria on Friday night to be told that while a mystery benefactor had agreed to pay £250,000 to buy the Pakefield-based theatre from Suffolk County Council, the hard work was only just beginning.

In total it will cost £800,000 to get to a position where the much-loved community and youth venue, which closed in July, can reopen its doors.

The Save Our Seagull (SOS) campaign, supported by the EDP, was launched after Suffolk County Council announced it had to cut its £60,000 a year funding for the theatre.

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On Friday, as well as seeking donations for the campaign, nominations were also invited for people to make up a new steering committee to move the project forward and seek vital funding grants.

It will be chaired by broadcaster Helen Mc-Dermott, who compered Friday's meeting.

She told the audience: “I really feel it is very important to keep live theatre going. It's your theatre and now it's over to you to make it work.”

The SOS campaign received a huge boost last month when Oscar-winning actress Dame Judi Dench agreed to become the theatre's patron. She could not attend the meeting, but sent a message of support to campaigners. Shakespearean actor Des Barrit has also agreed to be a patron and appeared at the Hotel Victoria to lend his support.

Waveney MP Bob Blizzard, who chaired the meeting, said: “The Seagull Theatre is not saved yet. Yes, it has been saved from Suffolk County Council; yes, it has been saved from development; and yes it has been saved from demolition.

“But it's not yet been saved as a community arts centre and only you can save it. If you take something for granted and become complacent it can go and we very nearly lost the Seagull Theatre.”

The eight-strong steering group is expected to be announced by the end of February and will help form a charity that will run the theatre.

James Reeder, of the Enterprise Lowestoft group, who has helped to co-ordinate the campaign, said the sale of the theatre was expected to go through on March 23. It is hoped by then the group will have raised £10,000 to help cover initial costs.

Groups and organisations interested in getting involved with the theatre project should write to Enterprise Lowestoft, Riverside Business Centre, 1 Riverside Road, Lowestoft, NR33 0TQ.

A fundraising art exhibition for the theatre is to be held at the Ferini Art Gallery, in All Saints Road, Pakefield. There will be a preview evening on Friday from 7 to 9pm and the exhibition will run until February 18.