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Wurlitzer Renovation Begins 22 October 2003

Len Rawle, internationally-renowned organist and Wurlitzer expert, has arrived on the Isle of Man to commence dismantling and refurbishment of the Wurlitzer organ.

Len, who is a self-confessed Wurlitzer enthusiast, and who has previously refurbished several Wurlitzer organs, stated:

'Following my introduction to the Department in 2001, I have been working with both the Department and Ellis Brown, Architects, to discuss the renovation of the Wurlitzer and its installation in the Villa Marina Arcade as part of the Arcade refurbishment project.

'I am sure that the Wurlitzer will provide a magnificent focal point in the Arcade and am confident that when installed in its new home, the public will be delighted with both its performance and appearance. I am particularly pleased that the pipework and internal mechanisms of the Wurlitzer will be able to be viewed.

'Although I am aware of the controversy on the Island concerning the possible installation of the Wurlitzer into the Royal Hall, I fully understand the reasons why the Department feels that this is not a suitable course of action. I have in fact looked at the Royal Hall, together with the architects, and can see that it would affect functionality of the Hall and indeed, would involve major and costly works.

'I have seen Wurlitzers installed in a variety of settings, one even in a sports hall in a Leisure Centre where it works very well. The most important thing to remember is that the Department is preserving the Wurlitzer and placing it where it will form an integral part of the facilities for the whole Villa Marina and Gaiety Theatre Complex, and where it can be enjoyed, both in a dedicated performance setting, and, more generally, by members of the public passing through.

'I'm delighted to be back on the Island and over the next few weeks I will be carefully dismantling the Wurlitzer at Summerland, numbering and protecting the myriad of working parts, piece by piece, crating up the larger pieces and pipes.

'I'll be working on the main console first until it's fully restored, and then the mechanism will also be gradually restored to its original condition, and then stored together in controlled conditions prior to reinstallation in the Arcade. As I know from previous experience, there is no substitute for the painstaking labour-intensive work required for the restoration and I estimate that the total refurbishment alone will take over a year.

'Personally, I can't wait to see the Wurlitzer featured in the Arcade and hopefully I will be able to feature the Wurlitzer on one of my concert tours.'

Mr Eddie Lowey MLC, Chairman of the Leisure Division commented:

'I am pleased that we have been able to secure the services of Len Rawle to assist in our plans for the Wurlitzer. Len has been working on the development of the Arcade project with our architects, Ellis Brown, for some time and the outline design looks impressive. Ideally we would like to bring forward the Arcade scheme so that we can complement the Villa Marina and Gaiety Theatre Complex, due to open in Spring 2004, with a revitalised Arcade in which the true qualities of the Wurlitzer can be enjoyed by the public as soon as possible.

'I would also like to thank Manx National Heritage for their assistance - particularly in respect of providing storage for the Wurlitzer.

'Now that Len has started work, let's hope that this affirmation of my Department's commitment to preserving the Wurlitzer will bring to an end the recent controversy.

'I would ask that Len is allowed to carry out his work at Summerland without disruption as he is on a tight timescale and, as anyone who has seen the number of individual parts of the Wurlitzer will know, he needs to ensure that his concentration does not waiver!

'I know that Len is as keen as I am to see the Wurlitzer fully restored in the Villa Marina Arcade, and I'm sure we all agree, the sooner the better!'

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