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Corn Hall plans go on show

PUBLISHED: 18:40 23 April 2008 | UPDATED: 10:28 12 July 2010

For more than 100 years it has been the hub of the south Norfolk community it serves.

And if the walls could only speak they would certainly have lots of tales to tell.

For more than 100 years it has been the hub of the south Norfolk community it serves.

And if the walls could only speak they would certainly have lots of tales to tell.

But now the Corn Hall in Diss is set to undergo an ambitious £1.8m revamp that will bring the Victorian building slap bang into the 21st century by turning it into an arts and cultural centre for the region.

It is hoped the plans - which went on public view last week - will bring in thousands of extra visitors each year as the hall is given a new lease of life.

Built in 1854, it was once the pivotal point of commerce for the area's agricultural based economy. Over the decades it became a venue for numerous events including civic receptions and banquets, also housing the town library and magistrates' court. During the swinging sixties it was a Mecca for dance fans from across Norfolk and Suffolk who grooved to the sounds of pop icons like the Tremeloes and Pretty Things.

Now it holds the town council chamber, a large function room, and hosts a series of community groups but is in need of a major overhaul if it is to achieve its full potential.

Under the proposals, put forward by the town council, a balcony will be added to increase the hall's capacity for shows together with a retractable multi-purpose stage. The 'wish list' also includes a new open air roof terrace with views over Diss Mere linked to a restaurant, coffee shop, bar and function room on the top floor.

Glyn Walden, of the Corn Hall Working group, said £1.8 million was a “ball park figure” and they would be looking for Lottery funding and grants from other bodies if all the proposed improvements were to take place. And he stressed that the project had not prompted the large hike in this year's parish precept for Diss, although some of the revenue will be used to fund essential works to upgrade access for the disabled.

“Diss fits in to the new strategy South Norfolk Council has whereby they intend to preserve the cultural heritage of their market towns. It is equally placed geographically between Norwich, Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds, in Diss we have one of the largest assembly halls in the whole county and there is scope to turn it into a modern theatre, cinema and concert hall,” he said.

Leading UK project management company De Facto is working with the council to progress the scheme which received an enthusiastic response from Brian Falk, of nearby Bressingham as he visited the exhibition held at the hall.

“I think it's an excellent first step. It needs a lot of support and development and they should go ahead with it as soon as possible,” he said.

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