Lewes theatres appeal to use ex magistrates’ court

Former Lewes magistrates court building.
Former Lewes magistrates court building.

An appeal is being made for the former Lewes Magistrates’ Court to be the new home of Lewes Rep Theatre and the Phoenix Theatre and Studios after its tragic destruction by fire last week.

It’s coming from theatre founder and director Sean O’Kane and Lewes Town Councillor John Lamb, who are putting the proposal to Whitbread – which owns Premier Inn – the South Downs National Park Authority and Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Development.

The pair say the blaze has left a big hole in the community and cultural life of Lewes in particular and East Sussex in general.

Making the ex-court available to Lewes Rep as the new Phoenix would go some way to making up that loss, they say.

They point out that it was not only a theatre of national standing but also a host to established artists, a ballet school, dance school, acrobatics, yoga, set design, lighting technology, film set and rehearsal space for performance across the south east.

Mr O’Kane and Cllr Lamb say the former court has a space suitable for performances and rooms that could be used by individual artists. It would also offer unique facilities enabling Lewes Rep to extend its community programme with the disabled, children and the elderly.

In addition to being a new home for Lewes Rep Theatre, they say, the empty building could provide a revenue stream for local traders. Putting the ex-court to this use would avoid the expensive proposed demolition of a bomb-proof building fewer than 30 years old.

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