WHATEVER Worthing residents may feel about the borough council’s decision to seek outside management operators for its three entertainment venues – the Connaught, the Pavilion and the Assembly Hall – many must be saddened and disappointed, to say the least, at the prospect of being deprived of the Wurlitzer Organ in the Assembly Hall.
I am voicing my personal viewpoint as I was the council’s entertainments and tourism manager at the time of the organ’s installation.
It is my recollection that it was very much a partnership agreement between the council and Jim Buckland of the Sussex Theatre Organ Trust, whereby the council provided the venue (Assembly Hall), together with some relative building alteration work in the stage area, and the trust provided the organ and necessary restoration and subsequent maintenance.
The council, at that time, was only too pleased to enter into this arrangement as it was gaining a magnificent asset to the Assembly Hall, and which has indeed been enjoyed by a large number of audiences over the years at concerts and other events such as dances and the annual London Taxi Benevolent Association Outing for the War Disabled.
With the organ also came an additional benefit; that of an electric lift which is used not only for bringing the organ up from below stage, but also for moving the concert grand piano and other heavy equipment to and from the stage and the storage space below.
This has saved the council much expenditure for many years, as prior to the use of the lift, specialist firms had to be hired every time the piano needed to be moved on or off the stage in this multi-purpose hall.
The organ installation is now very much part of the fabric of the building, both above and below stage, and the council’s wish to remove it is both unnecessary and short-sighted.
Surely it would be possible to include any contract with a future operator of the Assembly Hall; a clause allowing the Sussex Theatre Organ Trust to promote a limited number of organ concerts a year, plus reasonable access to the hall for periodic maintenance.
Following the vast amount of work carried out by Mr Buckland over many years, the instrument is now the finest and largest Wurlitzer Organ in Europe, and I sincerely hope the council will think again before throwing away this valuable asset.