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Congress Theatre & Welcome Building

Regular visitors to Eastbourne will know that we are very lucky to have not one but FOUR amazing theatre venues in this town (population 100,000).  Since December 2016, the largest, The Congress Theatre (seating capacity 1647) has been closed for a refit.  The Site is undergoing a £54million transformation with a new “Welcome Building” being built to house new and exciting exhibition, break out and café space for the Devonshire Park Complex.  Also part of the £54million spend is the updating transformation of the Grade II* listed Congress Theatre and refurbishment of the Winter Garden.  This will provide state of the art entertainment and conference facilities for the town.  The 4 Star Gold Mowbray is on the doorstep of this fantastic site.

I, along with fellow hoteliers, got a backstage look at the progress of the building project today.  A lot of headway has now been made and the Welcome Building is really taking shape with refit works going on at the Congress Theatre.  A word though to the wise.  Although the public will see the results of the Welcome Building work and the public realm landscaping, there is a real risk that they will not see the fruits of labour when it comes to the Congress.

What the public must be made to understand is that a lot of the regeneration work to the Congress is happening behind the scenes.  New ventilation, new lighting rigs, whole new electrics, new lifts, new boilers, and new seating yes.  But apart from that seating the “look” is quite deliberately going to stay the same.   I will bet you any money that come local election time in May 2019, there will be cries from some quarters of “You can’t tell the difference”, “What a waste of money” blah blah blah.  I bet you some cash right now that within a week of it opening there will be one or two letters into the Herald saying exactly that.   It is imperative and incumbent on the officers of the council to get the message out there as to what exactly is happening and what the money is being spent on.  That will mean making wiring and boilers and new lighting rigs sound sexy.

What this means economically for Eastbourne is higher end spending conferences and (hopefully) the bigger West End shows coming to this town and pulling in the crowds.  That means people in conferencing, tourism and theatres working together and getting that message (and the bookings) out there now!  Get local ambassadors in to relay the message far and wide.  We as businesses need to know so we can help with the messaging.  No offence Ann-Marie, but a couple of press releases in the Herald is  just not  going to cut it!   Paul Quantstrom and his team are working hard to deliver the First Class venue the Devonshire Quarter can be with the money available.  It is up to the rest of the council machine to pull their fingers out, get the product in there and get the message out.  We are behind you guys – but get on with starting to get the narrative out there before the naysayers get a chance to begin!