Hope and relief as Regis Centre plans reopening

Huge relief and plenty of excitement will mark the reopening of Bognor’s Regis Centre at the end of May.

General manager Hazel Latus
General manager Hazel Latus

Huge relief and plenty of excitement will mark the reopening of Bognor’s Regis Centre at the end of May.

It will be a relatively quiet June before the venues gets fully back into its stride for much busier months from July onwards.

But adding to the confidence is the fact that they can now confirm their panto: it will be Jack and the Beanstalk featuring a number of the cast who would have been in the cancelled Peter Pan last year.

But maybe the main point is simply that the venue has survived.

General manager Hazel Latus said: “It is a relief to be reopening and moving forward. And we are financially sound. We are not millionaires, but we can manage with what we have got and we can create more, which is what we would like to do. We are relieved and pleased!”

The first show back will be a Spring Ukulele Celebration on Wednesday, May 26, followed by Paul Jones and Dave Kelly on Saturday, May 29 – with audiences seated in accordance with the Government’s socially distanced guidelines.

“We have just had a big brain-storming day to see where we all are and to make sure everybody knew what they were doing, and we have got another meeting for volunteers for the café, again so that everyone knows what they are doing and so that everyone feels valued… and everyone is just really, really excited about opening again. People just can’t wait to get back which is fabulous.

“And I do feel confident. We have got things going on in July, August and September and we have got shows that have already been rescheduled. June will be a bit quiet which is maybe not a bad thing. I don’t know if people’s confidence will be back to that degree just yet. There are some things that are hard to sell.

“But we have got (Bognor-based BROS doing) The Vicar of Dibley in June which will do well. And we have got dance schools coming in in June which bring their own audiences. And then in July things will get a lot busier. And we have got quite a lot going on in the studios which is a good thing, and we have got our own drama group on Saturdays.”

Hazel is even hoping to revive her annual variety summer season, though it will be scaled down in terms of the number of performances – not a week, but probably two days, three performances, with the possibility of adding extra if the ticket demand is there.

And then, capping the year, will be panto, a brand-new adaptation of Jack and the Beanstalk: “We will once again be working with Spillers Family Pantomimes to bring audiences a production full of song, dance, comedy and colour. It was such a great sadness that Covid-19 meant panto couldn’t happen last year, but we’re going to more than make up for it this year. We know from early inquiries that people are keen to bag seats.”

Whether there will be quite the same take-up as usual from schools obviously remains to be seen: “We are not dependent on schools, but they certainly take up quite a few full houses which always gets us off to a good start. But I do hope people will be feeling confident by Christmas. But we have survived. We have absolutely survived which is great, and going forward, we have got lots of plans. We have got lots of ideas and we have got work coming in. We have just got to make sure that absolutely everything is pristine for the reopening.”

During the lockdowns of the past year the venue has enjoyed some refurbishments. Hazel is confident the venue can reopen with a clear offer to visitors: “We are very grateful to have been a recipient of the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund. I would also like to extend heartfelt thanks to Arun District Council and Bognor Regis Town Council for their ongoing support. It really is appreciated.”