An annual summer theatre season that has been running in Suffolk for more than 80 years is celebrating today after the local community rallied to save it from closure.
Theatre on the Coast, previously known as Suffolk Summer Theatre, has been entertaining audiences at Southwold Arts Centre every summer since 1937.
The season was inherited by Matthew Townshend Productions (mtp) who originally saved the season from closure in 2019.
The future of Theatre on the Coast was uncertain following the long-term effects of lockdown restrictions over the past year which saw theatres across the country close their doors.
A three-week CrowdFunder campaign was launched during March with the aim of raising £6,000 by 2pm on 9th April for the annual season to go ahead this year.
On ending, the campaign has raised £8,000 in online and offline donations.
Award-winning producer Matthew Townshend of mtp said: “We’re a mixture of emotions!
“Firstly, we’re thrilled to be able to push ahead with this year’s season.
“We’re also absolutely astounded by our community’s generosity and support of Theatre on the Coast. We cannot thank you all enough.
“It proves beyond doubt that theatre audiences are hungry for the return of live performance, back on stage in the theatres that they know and love.”
More than 140 people contributed to the campaign, including writer and broadcaster Christine Webber who fondly remembers her time in Southwold:
“My association with the theatre in Southwold goes back a long way, to a time when I appeared in the season myself in both 1974 and 1975.
“It must always continue. Quite apart from everything else, so many artists began their careers in Southwold.”
Theatre-goer Paul Baxter also contributed to the campaign and said: “We look forward to seeing your summer programme announced every year.
“We’ve had some great nights, we wouldn’t want to lose you now.”
Theatre on the Coast’s season in 2020 had to become a virtual event at the last minute due to the uncertainty of theatre openings during the pandemic.
The virtual season was a huge success, with usual audience members streaming the performances live from the comfort of their own homes.
Provided the Government roadmap out of lockdown continues effectively, this year’s season will be going ahead with a star-studded programme including ‘Allo ‘Allo star Vicki Michelle in Hello Norma Jeane, Terry Johnson’s Olivier-award winning comedy about Sid James and the late Barbara Windsor Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick, a new show for families and younger audiences and Tomfoolery, the musical revue with the hilarious songs and words of Tom Lehrer.
Theatre on the Coast also hopes to be able to mount events on Southwold Common in late July/early August.
All shows will be presented following guidance on safety for audiences, performers and staff.
“We are so proud to be a part of this incredible community.” Matthew continued.
“The amount we have managed to raise just shows how hungry audiences are for the return of live performance, back on stage in the theatres that they know and love.
“We cannot wait to welcome you back to Southwold this year!”
Booking is planned to open by the beginning of May.