A FORMER council leader credited with rescuing Southend’s iconic Kursaal, has called for a new campaign to safeguard its future.

The Kursaal, a prominent feature of the Southend seafront skyline since 1901, fell into decline in the 1970s and closed its doors in 1986.

Southend Standard:

Chequered past - the Kursaal

When Lib Dem Graham Longley became council leader in the 1990s, he persuaded the council to buy the freehold of the building, which was then seriously dilapidated.

After appointing a developer, he opened the newly-refurbished Kursaal to great fanfare in 1998 with the hope it would become a bustling family attraction.

Sadly, its future is now once again under threat after the bowling alley suddenly closed on May 3.

The entertainment park, which boasts the alley, a laser tag arena, an arcade area and a soft play zone, is currently owned by Disco Bowl, with the freehold held by Southend Council. The company closed the venue suddenly.

Mr Longley, 70, said: “I should think everyone in the town must be very upset and concerned about the future of the Kursaal.

“We should do everything we can to make sure it is kept. It is a major feature of the town along with the pier.

“Looking at buying the lease might be a possibility.

“We could do something where people can use the facilities there, but with a new-style entertainment that’s required these days.”

Mr Longley added: “I would hope the council would be looking at what’s happened very carefully and doing their bit to save it.

“The Kursaal is an icon for the town and I’m sure the community would want to do all it can to save it.”

The Kursaal originally featured a circus, a ballroom, an amusement arcade, a dining hall and a billiard room.

The world’s first female lion tamer and the world’s first female wall of death rider both performed there.

In the 1930s, there was a zoo in part of the complex while top dance bands of the day performed in another section.

Tony Cox, leader of Southend Council, said the council was considering what to do next.

He added: “It is an icon for the town and as the freeholder we will do what we can to keep it open.

“We are watching the situation closely. We would like to see it back in use and we are exploring all options.”