Milligan theatre changes its name


Rye News has been contacted by a number of people asking what has happened to the Milligan theatre at Rye College in The Grove. It seems it’s business as usual other than the fact that the theatre has changed its name to Rye Theatre and seemingly dropped the association with comic genius, the late Spike Milligan, a former Udimore resident.

Rye College and education director, Barry Blakelock, explains:

“As we understand it, the school hall was named purely for commercial reasons, however with no commercial profile or particular reputation amongst theatrical producers, ‘Rye Theatre’ provides an opportunity to give a greater sense of our location.

“Following a programme of investment in the school hall, we are working with a number of established producers to reinvigorate our offer to local theatre goers under the name ‘Rye Theatre’.

” ‘Rye Theatre’ clearly locates us, maximising the appeal to both potential audiences and producers whilst continuing our long association with Rye Wurlitzer.

“This Christmas, we are thrilled to be bringing professional pantomime to Rye for the first time in many years.

“Goldilocks and the 3 Bears is packed with magical circus skills, hilarious comedy and traditional family fun brought by leading producers, That’s Entertainment Productions.”

Goldilocks at Christmas

Further information about the theatre, upcoming events and tickets for this year’s pantomime can be found at

Change, it seems is inevitable – dropping the name Milligan signifies the door closing firmly shut on part of our local culture. Thankfully though not everything is changing as the iconic 1925 Wurlitzer organ still features in future events.

Image Credits: Rye Wurlitzer , Teresa Kibble .

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  1. The Milligan Theatre was very well known and recognised as part of Rye arts culture. Seems a great shame to change the name to something as pedestrian as “Rye Theatre’. Still I suppose it’ll always be Thomas Peacocke Comprehensive School Hall to many …

    • It was also known as The Grammar School Hall to many others! (‘Grammar School’? – use of such language is sure to be censored.)

      I never knew it as The Milligan Theatre, but the change in name to something so anodyne evokes a pang of sadness at the loss of such an important connection for the town. Perhaps if it had been named The Spike Milligan Theatre…

  2. How disrespectful to the Milligan family. Spike Milligan was a well loved local who contributed a lot to Rye and surrounding areas and is sorely missed. To wipe him out as if he never existed is a travesty. I sincerely hope the College will reconsider.

  3. One must agree with Patricia, Spike milligan was an icon of comedy,embraced our town, helped save Rye hospital with Paul McCartney, and put Rye Rugby club on the sports map, and these people who have been in charge of Rye College for five minutes,decide to expunge his name from the history of Rye.I wonder what the people of Tenterden would think if Homewood school erased Donald Sindens name from their theatre.

  4. The Australian Tennis Open used to be held in Flinders Park, named after the famous British navigator who first circumnavigated and mapped Australia’s coastline. The authorities decided to change the name to Melbourne Park, purely to boost the city’s reputation and (presumably) recognition. The same thing has happened with the Milligan Theatre: the name change is simply a marketing move to enhance recognition of Rye and to embed the theatre, albeit rather obviously, in its location. Spike Milligan’s reputation is not without controversy, but he was a local resident who contributed much to the town. Some sort of recognition for Spike in Rye would probably be appropriate. Perhaps the town council could consider naming an annual grant, or a new literary or arts prize after him? Rye Theatre could easily name its stage or another room or part of the theatre to honour the comedian.


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