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Arts barn back in business

PUBLISHED: 10:45 17 April 2009 | UPDATED: 11:03 12 July 2010

A NEW era in the region's arts and cultural world has dawned with the official reopening of Wingfield Barns.

Mid Suffolk District Council last year bought the site from the Arts Council for the nominal sum of £1, and has breathed fresh life into the complex which in its heyday was home to the prestigious Wingfield Arts and Music Festival.

A NEW era in the region's arts and cultural world has dawned with the official reopening of Wingfield Barns.

Mid Suffolk District Council last year bought the site from the Arts Council for the nominal sum of £1, and has breathed fresh life into the complex which in its heyday was home to the prestigious Wingfield Arts and Music Festival.

The barns, which include a magnificent Grade II listed timber framed building dating back to 1537, were converted in the 1990s into a rural arts centre at a cost of £1.4m, with £750,000 provided by a Heritage Lottery Grant and £400,000 from the European Union. But funding difficulties led to their closure in 2005 when the property was offered for sale on the open market, but no buyer could be found.

Now, the site has been saved as a community facility by the district council, which has launched a major programme of events including a free art exhibition which runs until Sunday, giving a taster of work to be exhibited at Wingfield.

Events this month alone have included a blues gig by local singer-songwriter Denny Newman, a concert by cellist Maria Martinez and a family fun day with puppetry, art-making and poetry.

Diana Kearsley, Mid Suffolk portfolio holder for culture and community service, cut the tape to open the facility to loud cheers and applause.

“This is an exciting occasion and I am really privileged to have been asked,” she said. “The programme has wonderful events for everyone to enjoy. The building is user-friendly for the whole community. Let's wish Wingfield Barns a tremendous future.”

A number of successful events have already been held, ranging from live theatre to art teacher training, and business conferences.

The picturesque setting enables the authority to widen the scope by promoting the complex as a venue for weddings and ceremonies. There are also plans for it to become a base for a youth club for local teenagers.

As the centre develops it will encompass film making and animation, dramatic performances, and painting, sculpture and pottery.

Richard Thurlow, the council's head of community and cultural services, said: “We have actually been managing Wingfield Barns for 10 months and in that time we have basically had to get the property in order, improving all the services and entrances to make it as accessible as possible.

“It is a tremendous facility which is an example of a council working with those in the local community.”

Contact the box office on 01379 384505 for more details about the 2009 programme, or visit the website www.wingfieldbarns.com

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