BLACKPOOL is famed for its ballroom in sharing a musical partnership between its building and its Wurlitzer organ.
Worthing is also famed for its, much larger, Wurlitzer in the spacious ballroom of the Assembly Hall.
Here, there is also an inseparable marriage between the instrument, the finest in Europe, and the building. Likewise, removing this organ would tear out its heart.
Without prior consultation, Worthing Borough Council notified the Sussex Theatre Organ Trust that “...the organ be removed from the Assembly Hall on the 20th day of April, 2012”.
This edict was based on the proposal that the future management of all Worthing entertainments are to be passed to an, as yet unspecified, third party on the grounds of saving costs.
This implies, incorrectly, that the organ is a financial burden on the ratepayers.
Its initial restoration, installation, enlargement, regulation, maintenance and management have been borne by E. C. “Jim” Buckland, with only the income from concerts passed to the trust.
These concerts are presented by world-class performers and attract countless visitors from this country and abroad, who bring valuable business to the town.
Removing one of its most celebrated attractions, broadcast regularly by the BBC, and described by the virtuoso American organist Carlo Curley as the “jewel in Worthing’s crown”, makes no sense in depriving both the incoming management and concert-goers of such a precious asset.
Furthermore, analysis of the current “What’s on in Worthing” reveals that these performances provide the least expensive seats of all the live theatre venues, so offering exceptional value.
It appears that Worthing Borough Council’s contention is based on the erroneous supposition the contract between themselves, as “hereditary trustees”, appointed originally by Alderman J. G. Denton in 1933 when he covenanted the building to the townspeople of Worthing, who are, therefore, the rightful owners, can only be concluded by removing the organ, so clearing the way for new management.
The legal department seems unaware of a process whereby a Novation Agreement, entered into by all three parties, may transfer the terms of an existing contract from one to another, so resolving this present destructive impasse.
In company with the other 17,000 petitioners, together with English Heritage, under whose jurisdiction this Grade II-listed building falls, and the fact that it would cost some £¾million to remove and store the organ, even if feasible, I suggest that common sense must prevail.