TO the stirring strains of Oh We do Like to be Beside the Seaside, the Stage by the Sea, Littlehampton’s new performing arts space, made its bow on Sunday (May 11)
Town mayor Joyce Bowyer cut a broad blue ribbon to declare the striking concrete curved acoustic canopy officially open, before an hour-long performance showcased a varied bill of talent from the area.
The Edwin James Festival Choir was given the honour of being the first act on the stage, watched by a good-sized crowd, considering the blustery conditions.
Folk musician Mal Simms, urban dance act JD, poet Pamela Johnson and the band of Littlehampton Nautical Training Corps unit TS Implacable followed the choir and gave a hint of the new venue’s potential versatility for a range of uses.
Among the audience were guests of the mayor and Littlehampton Town Council who made their way to the opening ceremony after a celebration lunch at the Manor House’s New Millennium Chamber.
Cllr Bowyer said the Stage by the Sea joined the East Beach Café and the Long Bench as features of the Littlehampton seafront which were often described as ‘iconic’, but which were all possibly Marmite structures, which were ‘either loved by some, but not so much by others’.
She added: “History will judge us all – I hope that people will look kindly in future years on what we have done in Littlehampton in the past few years, to make it a better place.”
Architects Jason Flanagan and Paul Bavister, who designed the Stage by the Sea, were proud to see their newest work launched.
Jason, who years ago led the team designing the acclaimed concert venue Sage Gateshead, congratulated the town council and Littlehampton as a whole on achieving such a group of notable seaside features.
“We’re very excited to have been involved in what is a special project. Seeing it here today, completed and being used by performers, has been great – it’s always a nervous moment to come and witness a building you have designed being opened, but we are very pleased.”
The town council has funded the lion’s share of the construction cost for the stage, a smaller shelter/stage on The Promenade and landscaping, with a £15,000 contribution from the county council and £30,000 from Arun District Council, which is leasing the site and also administering bookings.