Bury St Edmunds/Thetford: Veteran appeased over anthem debacle

Doug Speller, a 74-year-old army veteran, who has been prevented from standing during the national a

Doug Speller, a 74-year-old army veteran, who has been prevented from standing during the national anthem while at the Apex theatre in Bury St Edmunds. - Credit: Archant

An Army veteran who refused to surrender to “ridiculous” health and safety regulations is celebrating victory after receiving a face-to-face apology over the debacle.

Retired Royal Artillery serviceman Doug Speller was left “gobsmacked” when staff at the Apex theatre in Bury St Edmunds told him he would not be allowed to stand for a military performance of the national anthem due to safety concerns.

The 74-year-old Thetford resident mounted an angry campaign to expose the farcical policy, which he felt was an insult to the Queen and country. And his efforts were rewarded on Monday with a face-to-face apology from the theatre’s operator, St Edmundsbury Borough Council, represented by councillor Sarah Stamp,

“We shook hands on it and it’s nice to know that they put their hands up to apologise,” he said. “I shall be going to the concert and I’m looking forward to standing for the Queen and marking the national anthem in the way I always did. I’m really glad some good has come of it.”

Ms Stamp, the St Edmundsbury cabinet member for heritage arts and culture, said she was “very pleased” to meet Mr Speller and apologise.

“I explained that there is absolutely no reason that audience members in the balconies cannot stand to mark respect for the national anthem, but that for the comfort and safety of everyone, we ask they otherwise remain seated,” she added.