Royal Phil adopts theatre as a new home

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has decided to adopt the 700-seat Marina Theatre at Lowestoft as a new “home”'.

Freddie Starr, Blazin' Squad, Joe Longthorne and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra would not appear to have a lot in common.

But they have all appeared at Lowestoft's Marina Theatre during the past few months to sell-out crowds.

And now following an extraordinary "royal coup" that will raise eyebrows in the classical- music world, the orchestra has decided to adopt the 700-seat seaside theatre as a new "home"'.

The internationally acclaimed orchestra has accepted a three-year residency to perform several shows a year at the Suffolk venue.

All this comes in a town which has glam rockers the Darkness as its only musical claim to fame.

However, that is all set to change, as part of an effort to transform the image of the seaside town and put it on the cultural map.

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The deal comes at the end of more than two years of negotiation and is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for Martin Halliday and his team.

Last night, Mr Halliday, Waveney District Council's venues manager, who has been the driving force behind the deal, said it is one of the biggest things ever to hit the town.

"I think it's the biggest news on the cultural front in the town for years and certainly the greatest coup in the theatre's 100-year history," he said.

"It's a fantastic achievement and I am absolutely ecstatic.

"The people of Lowestoft are very privileged to get this and I am hoping that people will realise that how big it is.

"Lowestoft has never had anything like this and we are not a city, yet we have attracted the biggest orchestra ahead of places like Nottingham, Leeds, Norwich and Bradford."

The orchestra last performed at the Marina in June, several years since its previous visit, and despite an England football international, the venue filled 95pc capacity.

For Mr Halliday and staff at the Marina, the news is the culmination of years of hard work bringing opera, ballet and drama to the stage. Now they have been rewarded with their biggest prize.

"I have wanted to do this since I got here and now it's come off I am really pleased – it's taken a long time to get it and is a fantastic achievement as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra don't just hand out residency to anyone," said Mr Halliday.

Ian Maclay, managing director of the Royal Philharmonic, was equally pleased with the deal after the success of the performance in June.

"The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is thrilled to become resident in Lowestoft and we look forward to presenting an exciting series of concerts at the Marina," he said.

"We will bring international conductors and soloists to Lowestoft and I feel sure that our programmes will prove to be very popular."

It is hoped that the residency will continue after the initial three-year period but it will depend on the level of support received at the box office in its first year.

From next spring, the theatre will host regular performances from the London- based orchestra.

Musicians will perform four or five dates in the 700-seat venue, climaxing in a grand Christmas Gala.

And as part of the residency, the Royal Philharmonic's Education Team will also look to build links with local schools, orchestras and choral societies.

Mr Halliday also announced that the Moscow City Ballet will be returning to the theatre in November for three nights.

For more information and details about forthcoming autumn/winter events at the venue, call 01502 533200