Bury St Edmunds: Flagship arts and entertainments initiative is launched at college

Gary Willis Gary Willis

Saturday, July 12, 2014
2:01 PM

A brand new initiative, which bosses hope to establish as East Anglia’s renowned centre for entertainment and the arts, has been launched at West Suffolk College in Bury St Edmunds.

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It has led to a partnership with the town’s Theatre Royal, with other venues and organisations in Suffolk waiting in the wings to get on board.

Conservatoire EAST (Entertainment Arts and Supporting Technologies) is headed up by director of performance Gary Willis.

He has visionary plans to transform the creative arts department at the college into a centre of excellence.

He said: “We will offer the full range of performance courses including the technical aspects of performance.”

The launch, held in the college’s Gateway building on Thursday, was attended by civic dignitaries, schools and partner organisations who were given details of a feast of creative performances from students and professionals.

It will include theatre, music, dance and film nights for the public and will offer students a real life experience of performing to a paying public.

Mr Willis said: “My ultimate vision is to create a performing arts centre for the east on par with the Brit School.

“I feel there is an enormous gap in the market for a place like this and young people in this area deserve to have a centre of excellence in the industry on their doorstep. They shouldn’t have to go to London to experience first class teaching.”

Fundamental to the success of Conservatoire EAST is building partnerships with the arts industry.

Mr Willis has formalised a partnership with the Theatre Royal and is in discussion with the Hunter Club, The Ideas Foundation, the John Peel Centre and The Apex.

In addition, he is working with the college’s director of hospitality, Mike Mulvihill, who is transforming the hospitality offering at the college and is set to re-launch the refurbished on-site training restaurant Edmunds, (formerly Zest), as well as redesigning courses and work placements on offer.

He said: “We are in the business of giving our students an excellent learning experience that prepares them for rewarding careers.

“I believe they deserve to be given exciting, dynamic and stimulating learning environments and opportunities.”

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