New ideas to help fill the seats at Lowther Pavilion

New manager at Lowther Pavillion, Mark Alexander.

New manager at Lowther Pavillion, Mark Alexander.

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Mark Alexander might actually to get to see his better half now.

For the last eight years of his life, Alexander has spent four nights a week in Oldham due to his job at the local theatre.

But now, after landing a top job at the Lowther Pavilion in Lytham, it’s made life a little easier.

“I live in Lancaster so I can actually get home after work ... I might see my partner Sue now!” he laughed.

But the shorter commute isn’t the only reason Mark, an actor for 15 years, now theatre manager at Lowther, is delighted to be in Lytham.

“It is a lovely venue, a lovely location, and a huge number of people from the local community support it, so I am really excited to be here,” he said.

“I’m not planning any great revolution – I think it is a process of expansion.

“We want to get the venue booked more often, more nights of the week, build around the core amateur dramatics shows and try to get the big acts in as well, like Jason Manford, who packed the place out the other week.

“We’d like to bring in a bit more drama as well, try it out, and we’ve just started an experiment of opening up the bar as a little studio theatre. We’ve got a folk night in there on Friday – we put a stage at one end of the room, keep the bar going, and it becomes a lovely, intimate 70-seater venue for nights when we haven’t got anything on in the main theatre.

“It is about being prudent, trying things out and seeing whether they work – not suddenly spending lots on a big idea that doesn’t work.”

With the Grand Theatre in Blackpool a few miles along the road, there’s competition close by. But Mark feels the Lowther can hold its own.

“It’s the same motorway to Blackpool, you turn left at the end instead of right,” he said. “I think the advantage for us is that a lot of people in the community come to what we do and support us. Plus we also attract a lot of people from Preston and beyond, even Southport.

“As long as we don’t try and do exactly the same thing as Blackpool Grand – and given our relative sizes we will always be doing different things – then I think we’ll be OK.”

It’s generally agreed the gloomy economic environment of recent years has hit theatres.

“People are less inclined to spend money on the less essential things in life.

But Mark feels that can be overcome. “It has hurt us, but only to an extent. People might cut out expensive holidays or not build a conservatory but I still think they say ‘hey I’m not feeling bad tonight, I’ll take the wife out for the evening’. So sometimes it doesn’t hit
 theatre as badly.

“What I have noticed over the last decade or so is Friday and Saturday nights, which used to be the real premium nights, are no longer such a strong draw because there are lots of other things to do at the weekend. Booking patterns have changed and we have to react to that accordingly.”

You may spot Mark out and about at the various club days coming up on the Fylde.

“We’ve got a caravan and we’ve done it up as a mobile box office,” he explained.

“Initially we will be taking it round the club days as a place to wave the flag and give out leaflets and eventually we hope to go round to town centres on a Saturday and actually sell tickets from it.”

To see what’s coming up at the Lowther, head to www.lowtherpavilion.co.uk