Theatre campaigners plea for public help

Campaigners fighting to re-open a community theatre have made an impassioned plea for the public to play a vital role in its survival bid.

Campaigners fighting to reopen a community theatre have made an impassioned plea for the public to play a vital role in its survival.

A public meeting, being held in Lowestoft on February 2, could decide the future of the Seagull Theatre in Pakefield - and people must show their support if the much-loved arts venue is to open its doors again.

A deal between Suffolk County Council and the Save Our Seagull (SOS) campaigners regarding the sale of the Victorian building is now tantalisingly close to being sealed.

But without volunteers willing to sit on a steering committee for the theatre, groups committed to using it and the support of the community as a whole, it will almost certainly fail, campaigners have warned.

Lowestoft businessman James Reeder, who has been representing the campaigners in discussions, said: "I cannot emphasise just how important this public meeting is for the future of the Seagull.

"We have to be certain of the public support for the project to run the theatre and arts centre. More than 100 people signed petitions saying they wanted to see the theatre stay open.

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"Now we are close to actually seeing that happen, we need those people to say, 'Yes, we are here and we do support it'. We also have to elect a steering group to take us to the next stage. It is important that members of this group are elected by members of the community rather than simply be appointed.

"Members of the public attending the meeting will have the opportunity to stand themselves and to vote for this new group," he said. "But this is the one chance - we need to have this group in place as quickly as possible."

The theatre was closed in July after Suffolk County Council slashed its £60,000-a-year funding. Just weeks later, the council started making preparations for the sale of the building, with nothing to stop it being demolished and redeveloped.

Under the imminent threat of the venue being lost forever, the SOS group was formed, and through an emergency appeal in the EDP a benefactor was found to lend the group the funding to save it.

Campaigners are now hoping to secure a number of grants to pay back the funding.

The meeting will be held at the Hotel Victoria, Kirkley Cliff Road, on February 2 at 7.30pm.