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Ipswich: Public backing sought for museum re-vamp

06:00 28 May 2014

Museum project director John Devlin

Museum project director John Devlin

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That was the call today as a new team sets out to develop a £20million makeover for Ipswich Museum in the town’s High Street.

The initial application for 
major funding for the work was submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund at the end of last year.

The borough council has now been told that the scheme should get support, but more details were needed – and it needs to show that the people of Ipswich and Suffolk back the proposal to develop the new High Street Campus.

A team of experts with a proven track record in the field has now been put together.

It is lead by project director John Devlin, the man behind the Gateshead Quays project with the Baltic Art Gallery, the Sage concert hall, and the Millennium Bridge over the River Tyne.

Rick Mather Architects is designing the refurbishment. It has been responsible for some of the most significant museum developments of recent years, including the Ashmolean Museum extension in Oxford and the National Maritime Museum.

If successful, the Heritage Lottery Fund grant would only cover about half the £20m cost of the project, and a team of fundraisers has been brought in to try to bring in the rest of the money that is needed.

Craigmyle Consultants is one of the nation’s leading fundraising companies and knows the region well – it helped to raise the money needed for the National Horseracing Museum in Newmarket.

The redevelopment will still take several years. The council hopes to get a development grant of just over £1m this time next year followed by a full grant of £8.2m later.

That would allow the full campus to be opened during 2019.

Mr Devlin said the architects’ proposals were based on the masterplan that was unveiled last year.

This includes creating an indoor “street” to link the various elements of the campus – the Victorian museum building including the High Street Gallery, the Ipswich Art School, and the Wolsey Studio Theatre.

However there would be some changes as requirements from English Heritage were taken into account.

The importance of attracting private sector finance could not be under-estimated, but there were potentially major benefits from the development.

Mr Devlin said: “This should bring in £10m a year to the town. In Gateshead the development brought in £46m during the first year and that has continued, and it was many times bigger than this.”

Borough council leader David Ellesmere said it was a “huge project for Ipswich and very important for the town”.

He said: “It would really mark the town down as an important destination for visitors, but also it would give local people the chance to find out about the history of the town, and find out where we came from.

“I really hope this captures the imagination of the public.”

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