A BELOVED seaside arts venue is to mark 125 years since it first opened its doors.

In 1894, the Marine Theatre was born on the water’s edge in the beautiful setting of Lyme Regis and has been at the centre of the town’s cultural and social life ever since.

This year will see an array of events and fundraising for the venue. In July, Sir Ian McKellen appears in a fundraiser for a youth theatre and to refurbish the dressing rooms.

This month, the arts venue is staging the Lyme Regis Revue in which cultural groups from the community are joining in for a variety show like none other.

Patron Andrew Rattenbury, a TV screenwriter for shows such as Eastenders and Doc Martin, is writing a play which will be staged December 4-7. It focuses on the Marine Theatre as at the heart of the community.

Deep Purple rock star Ian Gillan, also a patron, celebrated the anniversary by funding a new website.

On June 16, there will be a free community screening of the 1949 classic film All Over The Town, which was filmed in Lyme Regis and features the Marine Theatre several times.

Supporters are being asked to adopt one of the years from the Marine’s history, and celebrate with a special party.

In 1894, the Marine opened as the Drill Hall. Primarily, it was a place of entertainment and training for the military, such as the Lyme Regis Musical and Literary Society.

In the 30s it was a cinema and the art deco front, which remains an iconic landmark for the Dorset coast today, was built. During the war, American troops used the Marine as a place to eat and entertain, with James Cagney and Joe Louis believed to have performed there. Later on the 40s and 50s, the Marine was used by professional theatre companies for Seaside Summer Seasons. Posters from the time describe family entertainment, comedian, cabaret, and soprano singing—the entertainment was varied.

The Marine Theatre was bought by Lyme Regis Council and was refurbished in 1962. The upper circle was replaced with a bar. The swinging sixties reached Dorset as the Marine became a dance hall. London promoter Bob Alexander brought acts down every Saturday for his ‘Big Beat’ nights. Acts included The Searchers, The Swinging Blue Jeans, and The Troggs. The Marine was also the destination for huge jazz acts such as Acker Bilk, Chris Barber, and Kenny Ball.

In the 70s, Fleetwood Mac and Status Quo performed.

In 2001, the people of Lyme Regis voted in a referendum for the Marine to be taken over by an independent charity, and today it is run by the Lyme Arts Community Trust. Recent years have seen a resurgence, with acts such as This Is The Kit, Tom Allen, Jethro and Alabama3 all appearing.