Forces’ Sweetheart Lends Her Name to New Community Theatre in Burgess Hill

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Forces’ Sweetheart Lends Her Name to New Community Theatre in Burgess Hill

A brand new arts centre, designed to serve the needs of the population of Burgess Hill, Haywards Heath and surrounding areas has been approved and a planning application will soon be lodged.  The Beehive Arts Centre, which is a project of Burgess Hill Town, promises to be a hive of activity and amongst a host of welcome facilities will be home to the Dame Vera Lynn Community Theatre.

The 230 seat theatre will be at the centre of the complex taking up three floors consisting of the main auditorium plus the lower and upper gallery. The seating will niftily retract to provide a floor area for other uses such as banqueting and will also include eight wheelchair positions.

Dame Vera, who as well as lending her name to the theatre, will be Patron of the new arts centre, has supported many initiatives involving the arts in Burgess Hill. Living in nearby Ditchling, she has attended countless shows in the now closed Martlets Hall and other venues in the town.  Her daughter, Virginia Lewis-Jones, recently took up the mantle of Patron to the Drusilla Duffill Theatre School in Burgess Hill, which offers a superb dance education for pupils. It seems theatre and the art is definitely a family affair.

Of this exciting initiative, Dame Vera commented, “I am delighted to be a Patron for the new theatre and community arts centre in Burgess Hill. It is good to know that the future of the arts in Sussex will be secured, as this is an issue of great importance to me.”

She went on to say, “The new theatre sounds like a wonderful opportunity and I am most honoured to put my name to it. Now we all need to support this project as best we can to give Burgess Hill an arts centre and theatre it can be proud of.

The Beehive Arts Centre will be a place for community and professional works and performances. As well as the Dame Vera Lynn Community Theatre, it will feature rehearsal rooms, dance studio/learning place, a café bar and exhibition spaces.

Mayor of Burgess Hill, Cllr Roger Cartwright said, “The Council is delighted to have Dame Vera as a patron of the Beehive, our beautiful new arts and performance centre, and to lend her name to the Dame Vera Lynn Community Theatre. She is, of course, one of our National Treasures, and has a warm space in our hearts.”

At present, people in Mid Sussex need to travel as far as Chichester, Horsham, Crawley or Brighton, having nothing on their doorstop. The new Arts Centre will change all of that with a valuable space for the local community.

A community consultation in 2016 highlighted a serious need for a flexible arts space with a theatre that could also provide capacity for banquets, markets and exhibitions. The concept of The Beehive Arts Centre was born and it’s safe to say that all concerned are anticipating its place in the community with great excitement. There’s bound to be a buzz in the air when the first spade hits the ground!

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29 July 2019