New manager plans to build on success of Beccles theatre

Neil Dunnell is the new manager of Beccles Public Hall. PHOTO: Nick Butcher

Neil Dunnell is the new manager of Beccles Public Hall. PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Beccles Public Hall is entering a new era with directors appointing its first general manager.

Neil Dunnell took up the post last Monday and is looking forward to taking the hall in Smallgate into a new and exciting phase.

Four years ago the venue was facing an uncertain future, but it was pulled from the brink by a dedicated band of volunteers who worked tirelessly to transform it into a thriving hub of entertainment.

And Mr Dunnell is keen to build on the large array of films, dance, theatre and events already available.

The 46-year-old father of two began his career as a professional tennis coach, before spending several years in a touring cabaret trio.

He was entertainment manager for 10 years at Vauxhall Holiday Park in Great Yarmouth, responsible for booking five shows a week for 20 weeks a year.

Mr Dunnell was also a support worker at Mencap for adults with learning disabilities before applying for the job at the Public Hall.

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He said: “I have got some friends in the entertainment business and I’d heard on the grapevine that the position was available.

“I spoke to one of the directors and asked to come and have a look. When I was at the holiday park I was booking acts to play to the crowd so I’m looking forward to proper theatre.

“My job is not to change everything, but to change it up a little and offer a wide range of entertainment for all demographics. With our younger audience, there is a lot going on elsewhere and it’s not necessarily about people coming here from places such as Norwich, but it’s about hanging onto the ones we have got.

“I’m looking for feedback from people because at the end of the day we want to give people what they want.”

Mr Dunnell’s job will be funded for two years by the Suffolk Foundation and a private local family trust.

Sue Bergin, event coordinator and director, said she was delighted to welcome Mr Dunnell on board.

“I am very proud of the whole team of volunteers who have worked very tirelessly to quite a punishing schedule over the past few years,” she said. “Nobody wanted to see the hall close because its a great hub for the community. The likes of Waveney Light Opera Group, Rising Stars and Spotlight have been the bread and butter of this place, they are fantastic. And we are at the stage where there really is something for everyone.

“Now with Neil as general manager we can take it forward into a new era and build on the successes of the past.”

Upcoming events include The Sound of Music sing-a-long, on Thursday, April 21, at 7.30pm and a Disco Inferno 70s and 80s dance night on Saturday, June 4, at 8pm, with music from DJ Paul Allen, who is resident DJ at Boogie Nights at the Ocean Rooms in Gorleston. A special offer is running for both events with a group ticket for six people available for £20 - and party goers are encouraged to wear fancy dress. For more details and to book, call the box office, open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 3pm, on 01502 770060.