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Bury St Edmunds: Community-run arts centre could be first of its kind

10:43 20 March 2014

The Wuffings project derives its name from the regions history  St Edmund was the last of the Wuffa dynasty to rule as King of East Anglia.

The Wuffings project derives its name from the regions history  St Edmund was the last of the Wuffa dynasty to rule as King of East Anglia.

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Britain’s first-ever community-run arts centre could be coming to west Suffolk as volunteers prepare to open out their ambitious plans to the public.

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Those behind the fledgling Wuffings project in Bury St Edmunds hope it will become a community centre with the arts at its core, with its small auditorium available to hire for community groups.

Julia Salmon, chair of the project’s steering group, said it hopes to secure the site of one of the town’s closing schools as the base for the project, while discussions were ongoing about whether to run it as a charity or as an IPS community benefit society, a type of cooperative that is increasingly being used to run shops and pubs.

The project hopes to launch within 18 months and could become the first arts centre in the country to be run as such a cooperative.

However, no decision will be made on its management structure until the outcome of a public meeting next month, and Ms Salmon wants as many people as possible to have their say.

“The greater the number of people attending the meeting and giving feedback to the project, the more comprehensively we can respond to community interest,” said Ms Salmon, who also volunteers at the Theatre Royal.

“We would like to engage with many types of youth groups, social service provisions and the local college, to provide an affordable community resource.

“I know that community resources are there for the community to use, but we want people across west Suffolk to have a genuine input into how it’s run and what it’s used for.”

The Wuffings project derives its imaginative name from the region’s history – St Edmunds was the last of the Wuffa dynasty to rule as King of East Anglia.

The group has so far been supported by the Plunkett Foundation, which has pioneered many cooperative schemes around the country, while Ms Salmon said the scheme had been well received by both the borough and county council.

The public meeting takes place at the Theatre Royal on Wednesday, April 2, from 7.30pm.

For more information about the project visit www.wuffings.org.uk

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