Uckfield’s rich cultural life was highlighted at a meeting of the town’s Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday evening (January 26).
Speakers talked about the Uckfield Festival, the Uckfield Community Technology College carnival group Spiritus and the introduction of live broadcasts of opera, ballet and plays at the Uckfield Picture House.
The meeting was held at Pilgrim Hall, Easons Green, hosted by Michael and Maggie Lee, who are due to retire from running the Christian conference centre at the end of March.
Cinema owner Kevin Markwick told Chamber members how the Picture House had evolved over the years with the most recent changes being the introduction of 3D in 2009 and the switch from film to digital operation last year.
He said the broadcasting of live events was proving “phenomenally successful”.
The Metropolitan Opera was coming live from New York accompanied by background interviews and chance to see behind the stage.
Productions were being broadcast live by satellite from the National Theatre too.
On February 3 King Lear was scheduled and two screens at the Picture House were already sold out.
Mr Markwick also talked of plans to offer one of the cinema auditoriums as a venue for corporate functions.
He invited Chamber members to a reception on March 1 to learn more about ways it could be used.
Uckfield Festival co-chairman Bob De’Ath reported that while the festival made a loss in 2009 that had since been recouped and a small profit was made in 2010.
He added programme planning for this year was well under way and appealed for Chamber members to support the festival by taking part in it.
“We do seem to have a wonderful mix of talent in this town and the festival is all about harnessing and allowing it to develop,” he said.
Mr De’Ath talked about the success of the carnival group Spiritus which had grown out of a festival initiative.
Seventy-five youngsters, for example, took part in the Mayor’s Thames Festival, the only group of its kind from outside London to do so.
Clare Summons, a teacher at Uckfield Community Technology College, added there was a possibility Spiritus could get to the Olympic Games in 2012.
Chamber president Peter Gale, a partner at accountants Swindells, told members that the Festive Fantasies magazine raised more than £3,000 and £2,000 of that was contributed towards Uckfield’s Christmas lights.
He rated the late night shopping event as the “best ever”.
Mr Gale also said the Chamber continued pressing for a car park to be opened on disused land opposite the Uckfield railway station.
Wealden MP Charles Hendry had offered support and a meeting had been requested with the relevant authorities.
Five new members were welcomed at the meeting. They were Nick Starbuck of Limelight Networks Ltd which deals with employment law; Martin Prestage of Martin Prestage Communications, a copywriter; Dean Ash of DM and C Ash Ltd, drylining specialist; Christina Ewbank of Lookers Mercedes-Benz, Eastbourne, Mercedes dealership, and Sue Austen-Jones of Easy PC Teaching.
Duncan Orr of Swindells gave a talk about pension rules and Mark Vaesen, managing director of Blue Planet Internet Solutions, told members about his company celebrating its tenth anniversary and planning a networking event at the end of February. He also said the Chamber website was being redesigned and the new look should be ready in about a month.
Uckfield Community Technology College principal Hugh Hennebry spoke about plans for an all-weather pitch and about fund-raising getting under way to cover the cost of the project.
Chamber secretary Ian Blackaller reported on the progress of plans for a trip for members to the Houses of Parliament.
This is due to take place on March 7 and will include lunch with Wealden MP Charles Hendry in a private dining room. The next meeting of the Chamber of Commerce will be the agm on March 31. It is due to be held at UCTC.