Live Theatre (in a cinema)

I went to the cinema yesterday evening. It was a new experience as I didn’t see a film (or movie) but a live performance from the Royal Opera House in London.

It was magical. My seat in our little Palace cinema was perfect. There was tea or coffee, the inevitable ice-creams and popcorn but, this is the exciting part of our cinema you could also order drinks, even hamburgers and chips, all of which are brought to your seat by an obliging waiter. All 120 seats were filled, mainly by grey-heads. The programme began – not with loud adverts but with announcements about future shows from the Royal Opera House.

Darcey-BussellThe scene was set by Darcy Bussell, stunningly charming retired principal ballerina, who incidentally went to Arts Educational School (as did my son) who also gave us enticing glimpses of life behind the stage.

The ballet was Nutcracker, a Christmas favourite and a great introduction to the world of dance. It’s a pity that there were just three young girls in the audience.

With an experienced video crew and sympathetic production going to the cinema to see a live stage show can equal being there. For poor provincials it’s a great to have such a cultural experience, one that we are unlikely to afford or find in the depths of the country.

We were not alone Darcy said this performance was being screened live in 852 cinemas in 24 countries. If we perfect this system the export income it derives could equal that of the lazy gamblers in the city, and even put Britain back on the world stage as a sophisticated rather than as warmongers.

Fisher Theatre Bungay

Fisher Theatre BungayThe Fisher Theatre, Bungay

Was first opened on 28th February 1828 with a performance of ‘The Belle’s Stratagem’. The theatre was one of thirteen designed and built across East Anglia by David Fisher, serving the circuit of Fisher’s company, ‘The Norfolk and Suffolk Company of Comedians’.

Fisher’s company, which was to a great extent made up of members of his own talented family, would visit each theatre in turn for two months, putting on a series of highly professional productions. They would then move onto the next town in the circuit, returning two years later.

If you go down the spiral staircase to the atmospheric cellar you can get a sense of how the late Georgian population of Bungay was stylishly entertained. You will find a reconstruction of the pit seating area complete with ‘audience’, and many historic items found during a ‘Bungay Time Team’ dig in 2004. Even cheaper than squeezing on to pit benches, were bench seats high up in the gallery at the Broad Street end of the building. The most spacious seats were provided for the gentry, in two tiers of private boxes. While local townsfolk queued eagerly down the side of the building, ready to squash into the pit or the gallery, the gentry would enter through the big front doors, personally welcomed by David Fisher.

Touring theatres were badly affected by the coming of the railways and in 1844 the Bungay theatre was sold. For most of the 19th Century it was the town’s corn Hall and a venue for meetings. Later it became Bungay’s first cinema and was used for a variety of entertainments and commercial enterprises, including a steam laundry for many years, and ending the 20th Century as a textile warehouse.

The resurrection of this ‘house of entertainment’ has been a long story in itself. Bungay Arts and Theatre Society (BATS) was formed in 1995 by five local residents convinced that the town needed an Arts Centre, and that to establish one would also help regenerate this ancient market town.

Attention was quickly focused on the old Georgian theatre building, and after much fund-raising the building was bought for the town in 2001. BATS, now a charity, began the daunting task of raising sufficient funds to transform a very dilapidated historic shell into a high-tech centre for all arts. An army of volunteers, a large board of Trustees, loyal audiences clutching blankets and hot water bottles; hard won grants; generous donations and huge helpings of stubborn determination and toil finally opened the big blue doors on 29th September 2006 as a registered not-for-profit charity receiving no on-going revenue funding. The running costs of the building, productions, staffing and maintenance are met solely from income generated by the activities in the theatre.

There are three separate areas licensed to hold Weddings and Civil Ceremonies.

It is difficult now to imagine life in the area without the vibrant fisher theatre. It’s at the heart of the community, providing an unusually broad programme of arts events, and has won a number of awards. The high-tech design features impress audience and performers alike, and yet the Georgian heritage is preserved and cherished.

Moving On

It’s not been easy but it is time to move on.

Mr Ray Anderson, the new owner, persuaded Suffolk Coastal District Council to sell him the Spa Pavilion for £1.

So far he has held one performance, inviting the singer Richard Digance to the theatre. An enthusiastic audience were disturbed to find their bags were searched before entry was allowed, the search was for sweets and drinks.

Don’t expect much more about the Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe from this site. We have spent far too much time, to no avail. Lately Ray Anderson has banned us from the theatre, refused to buy this domain name, and asked Nominet to hand him this domain name – for nothing. He has been threatening and abusive. We want nothing more to do with him.

This site will soon be transformed to concentrate upon local theatres and artists. We prefer to encourage, and have no wish to fight.


It could be that an appeal is the only course now open. We are ready to contest.

Ray Anderson has threatened to sue but no writ has yet appeared. It’s encouraging to see that Richard Digance has agreed to appear. He enjoys fishing at Felixstowe.

A man alleging he is the Publicity Officer from Spa Pavilion Ltd has demanded the Nominet give him this web site. He suggests that we are abusive. We shall contest, strenuously.

Pirate Radio Museum

The Atlanta at Pier Gap in Clacton houses a museum of pirate radio.

There’s been rumours lately that the rent has not been paid, and Tendring District Council, owners of the building, are now seeking a new tenant. The rumours are not completely correct. Tendring District Council have, I understand, given the museum free tenancy until October.

As the previous tenant was Ray Anderson we may see the museum moved to Felixstowe very soon.

Whether it goes to the Spa Pavilion or to Felixstowe Radio’s new facility (the former Coe’s) is yet to be decided.


Sale Spa Pavilion web site

Oh dear, negotiations have begun. First offer we received for this web site was way below the asking price but it’s a start. We cannot reveal who made that offer.

The argument presented by a representative of NRG Theatres Ltd in a recent email to this site is that the other Spa Pavilion web site will take precedence once they begin to promote the shows, and sell tickets.

Clearly they don’t have much understanding of web sites. Never mind, we remain open to suggestions.

Not much activity recently. We await the Council’s response to a set of Freedom of Information requests we have served. They may provide some information.

We are encouraged that even Councillors are beginning to question the logic of selling such an historic and iconic building for £1 to a man with little theatre experience, and a fragile business history.

Since gaining this building Ray Anderson has created another company. This is a very dangerous step, for which there are several precedents. One company may well become overladen with debt, while ownership is quietly transferred to the other entity. This will prove difficult.

As will ownership of the adjoining land – especially the cliff which is largely supported by the rear wall of the Spa Pavilion. Who will pay for reparation later? This question has been asked of Suffolk Coastal DC who ignored our warnings.

We now wait for the Council’s response to our FOI.

The battle is never-ending. A senior reporter of a local newspaper group was refused an interview by Ray Anderson, unless Anderson was allowed to set the questions. That doesn’t bode well.

Buy this web site

Now that Suffolk Coastal District Council has sold this wonderful building, which is full of happy memories for many residents and visitors, for £1 to a recently formed company with no track record there seems little point in carrying on the fight to save the theatre and restaurant for the Town.

Therefore it is offered for sale – for just £10,000 NRG Theatres Ltd, and its associated company, can acquire this very important site. In so doing they will have control of what is found here. It is the natural place for intending users of the Spa Pavilion and occupies the top place on Google’s search engine – in itself that has great value.

Contact us by sending an email through the contacts page – giving your details  and negotiations can begin.

This offer has since been misconstrued, with Ray Anderson demanding that this web site be taken down – his demand was met. That, in itself, raises many questions that require explanation.

We don’t care who buys the site – it’s an open offer. We suggested NRG Theatres Ltd may be interested – it seems we were wrong.

More information from Suffolk Coastal

FOI.EIR Request – 32141.pdf

Yes: we’ve had another answer to a Freedom of Information request. It is difficult as Suffolk Coastal DC seem to believe that failing to properly answer questions or to provide information is the way they should behave. That’s very unfortunate, as it leaves people disinterested.

Their reply and our questions can be downloaded and read at leisure. You may wish to ask them different questions.

Several matters immediately arise:

Why isn’t the Spa Pavilion listed as a public asset? The Council has a legal obligation to list all such assets – wonder what else if not listed? Have they left out the cemetery – so that can be sold off to a commercial company? That’s yet another question to ask.

We know there were other bidders – wonder why were they rejected. One company was prepared to invest £1.5 million. A local community group was dismissed out of hand.

NRG Theatres Ltd now appear to have a business plan, so SCDC say – that didn’t appear when we asked that question, and it has not appeared since. In fact there are now several anomalies that do not match the replies we have received to our FOI requests – that may have to be referred elsewhere.

The saga is never-ending.


Have a Contract

Not been much movement recently.

We served an Expression of Interest under the Localism Act 2011 – which has been totally ignored by the Council.

Allegedly Ray Anderson’s new company (another one!) have been sold the Spa Pavilion. Details of that sale, as appeared in the press, run contrary to the information we were given when we served our FOI request. We now need to find out which version is correct.

In response to our FOI about the unstable cliff that is supported by the Spa Pavilion the Council has steadfastly refused to answer our question but had responded with lawyer-speak.

Our worry is that the ‘new owner’ of the Spa will apply to demolish the building, and demand that the Council (you and your money) stabilise the cliff. A reasonable estimate to do that is £300,000. With our Council’s history of contract management we can probably double that figure.

Finally, for now, we are still waiting to receive papers to confirm that Ray Anderson is taking legal action against us.






Spa’s Future

15 May 2015: it is reported in the EADT today that the Council will sign a contract with NRG Theatres Ltd. The newspaper report differs in its news to the Freedom of Information response we received recently from the Council. Then it was a straight sale, no holds barred. Which version is true? We must now appeal to the Information Commissioners.

We’d also like a response to our Expression of Interest under Localism Act 2015 – or does the Council just ignore such legal requests?

More attacks on this web site this morning – we are tracing their source, and are grateful that BT Martlesham’s complex has so many experts willing to assist.

Attacks 14 May: Suddenly people are trying to break into the administration area of this site. It’s never happened before.

Not heard from Mr Stephenson yet – we await his demands. Apparently he was concerned that we hadn’t bothered to contact NRG Theatres Ltd: why would we want to do that? There’s nothing that company can do to really help the Spa Pavilion – is there? If there is we’d like to know, as we’ve heard nothing so far.

Rumour 13 May 2015: The grapevine (Liberal Democrat HQ) has heard that Gareth Stephenson of NRG Theatres Ltd is threatening to sue Trevor Lockwood, Mike Ninnmey and the Lib Dems for slander, libel, defamation of character. Not sure why. Everything that has been said has been added to the web site – although we heard this morning that the videos that we gave to Felixstowe TV have been removed from their site.

We make no secret of our opposition to our iconic theatre being handed over to one man (there is still just one director) of NRG Theatres Ltd. He is Ray Anderson. You’ll find material on the site about him – all of it has been in the public domain before – we have deliberately not added the material about him that has been supplied to us that could, in any way, be illegal.

The right of free speech still exists in the country.

We cannot understand how this man can arrive in our town, with no previous connection with this town, and is given a building which has been at the very centre of our town’s culture for generations. There has been no discussion.

The Council has pointedly said they cannot comment until AFTER the alleged contract has been signed. Do they not conform to the Nolan Principles?

We object to being left in the dark – and have submitted a request under the Localism Act 2011 asking to be considered as a group from the Town that can run this complex.

The only response we have had is to be threatened.

Be careful before throwing stones – you might get more than you bargained for!

Where has local democracy gone, so soon after an election?

Beware: we sent the Expression of Interest yesterday to Suffolk Coastal only to find a report by Edmund Crosthwaite in today’s Felixstowe Star that reported that SCDC had not received my request.

The penny dropped eventually. Although the SCDC web site says sends email to it seems that some (the difficult ones perhaps) need to be sent to (whoever they are?).

Now I have to ask the Local Government Ombudsman if that is OK!

Email has now been sent to – we shall wait and see. Thank you Edmund.

6 May 2015 We have just sent the following letter to Suffolk Coastal District Council:

Dear Sir/Madam

A local group has been formed within the Colneis Peninsular, presently called the Felixstowe Group, but application has been made to create a Community Interest Company. Full details of that title and its founding directors will be sent to you as soon as they are confirmed by Companies House. Our initial brief is to look at the community assets within our area that the local community should be aware of in order to consider Community Asset Transfer, Community Right to Bid and Community Right to Reclaim Land.

We wish to headline an Expression of Interest in the first instance for the Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe so that we can prepare a business case to transfer that building, its curtilage and contents to community ownership.

There is now a need to gather evidence to show how the community and local people will benefit from the transfer, and to gather evidence of community support for the transfer. Our continuing interest over the last decade insists that this is a highly-treasured local asset.

SCDC’s Community Asset Transfer Strategy needs to be clearly outlined, and perhaps there have been other transfers nearby which can demonstrate feasibility? That information will be gratefully received.

An initial concern is confirmation that the land and buildings in question really are assets and not liabilities – can they generate enough income to fund repairs, maintenance and ongoing costs? Your help would be invaluable.

We look forward to your confirmation of our Expression of Interest in this building and to beginning constructive discussions.

We fully concur with the Council’s declared policy on Localism and we know that there will be an upsurge of support and local enthusiasm if this iconic building is retained in local ownership.

For now please use this email and address for communications.


To give some background to this submission look at

Under the Community Right to Bid, community groups are able to nominate non-residential buildings or land within their communities as ‘assets of community value’ which cannot be sold without the community group being given the opportunity to put together a bid to purchase the asset.

As the Act advises we have contacted the local authority’s property department to discuss where to start. In most cases the process involves submitting a headline expression of interest, and subject to an invitation from the local authority, developing a business case to show that the community is capable of maintaining and operating the land or building into the future. That’s what we have done

Transfer options

A range of agreements can be entered into – but the most common form is a long leasehold. Often, local authorities will explore shorter-term agreements with newly formed community organisations.

Any voluntary or community group interested in asset transfer will need to:

  • Gather evidence to show how the community and local people will benefit from the transfer
  • Gather evidence of community support for the transfer
  • Check to see if your local authority has a Community Asset Transfer Strategy and if there have been other transfers nearby from which you can learn – check our stories for inspiration
  • Check that the land and buildings in question really are assets and not liabilities – they are liabilities if they cannot generate enough income to fund repairs, maintenance and ongoing operational costs.


To Quote from the Suffolk Coastal DC’s web site:

We cannot achieve your priorities on our own. Localism is about collective action and collective responsibility, recognising that we not only all have a part to play in successfully tackling your key priorities but that together we can do it more efficiently and effectively. It requires a dynamic partnership between the citizens that make up our area, the wider public sector, the voluntary and business sectors, and the district Council. Gone is any assumption that the state alone is equipped to run public services or has a monopoly on knowledge and ideas. We recognise that, with support, local people are best placed or qualified to find innovative and more efficient solutions to local problems.

We know that using the wealth of knowledge and energy held by individuals, communities, local councils, public sector staff and the voluntary, charitable and private sectors can be the real driving force in delivering more effective and efficient services for our communities. We have the positive experience of our Local Strategic Partnership and its successes in helping bring together people and organisations that are making a difference in our area. That is why we are determined to create public services that are directly accountable to those who use them, and where providers stand or fall by their ability to deliver a good service, regardless of which sector they are from.

We will therefore work closely with our partners in local government particularly in town and parish councils and at Suffolk County Council, but also in health, education, police and the voluntary, community and business sectors. More importantly, however, we will work more closely with you.

We firmly believe in the importance of public services and the role of local government in helping to build a stronger society and improving everyone’s Quality of Life. We also believe however that there should be space between the state and the individual. This is the space already filled in our area by tradition, community, family, faith, voluntary activity, business and philanthropy. These can all have a more powerful and deep rooted cultural impact on our society than local government can ever achieve – increasing choice and opportunity while also promoting the virtues of fairness, mutual dependence, duty and responsibility.

The Council will therefore trust and help more individuals and communities to take even greater control and responsibility for themselves. We already have an excellent Localism track record in empowering local communities to do things their way. We will go further however, building upon the local energy that already exists. Importantly however we also believe in fair access to public services; so where individuals are currently too vulnerable to help themselves, then we will continue to protect and support them, keeping them free from the risk of harm.


We have asked for the following information:

The Local Government Transparency Code (2014) sets out the minimum data that local authorities should be publishing, the frequency it should be published and how it should be published. A part of the Code deals with the publication of data on land and building assets, the availability of which should make it easier for local people to contribute to local decision making processes.

Under part 2 of the Code it is mandatory for Local authorities to publish details of all land and building assets including:

  • all service and office properties occupied or controlled by user bodies, both freehold and leasehold
  • any properties occupied or run under Private Finance Initiative contracts
  • all other properties they own or use, for example, hostels, laboratories, investment properties and depots
  • garages unless rented as part of a housing tenancy agreement
  • surplus, sublet or vacant properties
  • undeveloped land
  • serviced or temporary offices where contractual or actual occupation exceeds three months, and
  • all future commitments, for example under an agreement for lease, from when the contractual commitment is made.

Part 3 of the Code sets out details of data that the Government recommends local authorities publish, which goes further than the minimum requirements in Part 2. Regarding land and building assets, the recommended data for publication includes:

  • size of the asset
  • services offered from the asset
  • reason for holding asset
  • whether or not the asset is either one which is an asset in the authority’s ownership that is listed under Part 5 Chapter 3 of the Localism Act 2011 (assets of community value) and/or an asset which the authority is actively seeking to transfer to the community
  • total building operation (revenue) costs
  • required maintenance
  • functional suitability rating
  • energy performance rating.

For more information, see the Local Government Transparency Code.