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Battle to save popular theatre is won

PUBLISHED: 09:35 27 April 2007 | UPDATED: 17:05 26 February 2010

A protest against closure last year

A protest against closure last year

THE battle has been won to save a popular community theatre in north Suffolk.

The Seagull Theatre in Pakefield, near Lowestoft, was closed in July last year after Suffolk County Council withdrew its £60,000-a-year funding amid a wave of £24m wave of cuts across the county.

THE battle has been won to save a popular community theatre in north Suffolk.

The Seagull Theatre in Pakefield, near Lowestoft, was closed in July last year after Suffolk County Council withdrew its £60,000-a-year funding amid a wave of £24m wave of cuts across the county.

Despite an outcry from supporters, which included Waveney MP Bob Blizzard calling on the council to reverse the decision, further plans for its sale were unveiled.

But less than a year later, the Save Our Seagull campaigning group, together with Enterprise Lowestoft, have saved the theatre and this week contracts were exchanged, keys handed over and nails can finally stop being bitten.

Last night , campaigner Gary Hilton said: “What a year it's been and a lot of people said it couldn't be done and at times my head hurt so hard and there wasn't anymore wall to bang it against but all the effort has been worthwhile and people power has won the day.”

The community effort to save the Victorian building was boosted when an anonymous benefactor loaned £250,000 to enable the supporters to buy it from the local authority.

Oscar winning actress Dame Judi Dench also stepped on board and became one of the theatre's patrons along with Shakespearean actor Des Barrit and Anglia TV broadcaster Helen McDermott.

Mr Hilton said: “At last we've come out one tunnel and we're now heading into another but we can now move forwards and start the next phase of the project.”

He said the group hope to reopen the theatre in September but there was a lot of work to be done beforehand.

The committee's next job will be to get the building up to a higher standard and bring in revenue.

They will hold fundraising events, form a trustee committee and put out bids for funding from various organisations.

A new business, called The Seagull, has already been set up, and they will oversee the theatre's transformation and are keen for as many people as possible to use the theatre when it reopens.

Facilities at the Morton Road theatre include a 21ft x 23ft stage area, 100 raked seats, box office, bar and dressing rooms.

There are also a dance/rehearsal studio and two large rooms suitable for meetings and rehearsals.

Jazz star Liane Carroll and her trio will perform at the Hotel Victoria on May 20 with all proceeds going to the appeal.

kate.scotter@eadt.co.uk

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