Theatre ‘worth �1m’ to local economy

A SUFFOLK theatre is worth an estimated �1million to the local economy, a new report has revealed.

The Fisher Theatre in Bungay, which has hosted the likes of Ann Widdecombe and actor Edward Fox, opened its doors in 2006 following an 11-year fundraising effort.

The transformation project has seen the old Georgian theatre become one of Waveney’s finest arts centres, attracting more than 20,000 visitors a year.

Marketing and events manager Les Hoare said the �1m figure, published in a new economic and social impact report, showed the extent of the theatre’s contribution to the town, particularly during the recession, as it is based on figures for one year ending in October 2009. The calculations include money spent in the town by visitors, and the knock-on effects.

“There were those who doubted whether a small town like Bungay could support such a venue,” he said. “Those doubts have proved to be unfounded.”

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He said the theatre also brought joy to the lives of people from Bungay and further afield.

“The Fisher is an absolute jewel to be treasured in the town,” he said, adding: “The Fisher is not just a theatre.”

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The intimate 160-seat auditorium was a favourite with performers and audiences, and he hoped the report’s findings would inspire people to continue to support the venue.

He paid tribute to the team of more than 50 volunteers whose duties include working in the box office and as ushers.

The proceeds of the Bungay Arts and Theatre Society, a not-for-profit charity, are ploughed back into the theatre, which relies on income from ticket sales, the caf� and wine bar, venue hire and grants and donations, as it receives no funding from public bodies.

Its varied programme includes theatre productions, films, lectures and art exhibitions, and is used for weddings, and business and charity events.

Mr Hoare said he was looking to build up lunchtime concerts and classical music and that a high demand for celebrity events meant they would continue.

This summer will see visits from former Bond girls Britt Ekland and Honor Blackman. The theatre will also host a Waveney election debate on May 4.

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