£6million town centre arts boost

A MULTI-million pound visual arts centre for Colchester is todaya step closer.The £6 million Firstsite:newsiteproject has been secured with cash from the East of England Development Agency (EEDA), which promotes economic regeneration in the East of England and is the first arts project the agency has supported.

A MULTI-million pound visual arts centre for Colchester is todaya step closer.

The £6 million Firstsite:newsiteproject has been secured with cash from the East of England Development Agency (EEDA), which promotes economic regeneration in the East of England and is the first arts project the agency has supported.

Firstsite already runs the Minories Art Gallery in East Hill, Colchester, and has boosted audiences from 12,500 to 70,000 in the last eight years.

The new centre will not be sited at the Minories but will be in the St Botolph's area of Colchester.


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The regeneration of St Botolph's, is expected to generate £100 million of investment over the next seven years, with 45 new businesses predicted to be set up and 500,000 additional visitors.

Katherine Wood, director of Firstsite:newsite said: "It is very good news. We are in a strong position now with architects coming up with ideas for the building design."

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Miss Wood said a further £1.5million, which Firstsite needs to raise, is the last financial hurdle in the £16million project. Other partners in the scheme have already provided several million pounds towards the cost.

Firstsite:newsite will have a range of facilities including:

n presentations of local, national and international exhibitions;

n exhibition space for the University of Essex collection of Latin American art;

n learning areas to allow people to take part in workshops;

n meeting facilities for major conferences.

It is hoped the new centre will be ready to open by 2007.

Yasmin Shariff, EEDA board member said: "Throughout history the East of England has inspired some of the UK's most talented artists - Henry Moore and Thomas Gainsborough both lived and worked in the region.

"Firstsite:newsite will provide inspiration and opportunity for talent to continue to flourish here in the 21st Century. Firstsite:newsite is the first major arts project which EEDA has supported.

"We are already attracting international talent to compete for the design of this fantastic new landmark and, together with our partners, we will create a truly inspirational facility which will show that the East of England has space for ideas that capture the imagination of people here and across the world."

Miss Wood added: "We are developing a new model of visual arts building for the 21st Century which will be an important social and cultural space, giving a new distinction and visibility to the treasures and talents of this part of the country."

Colchester Borough Council's Chief Executive, Andrea Hill, said: "This is excellent news. Such a large investment demonstrates EEDA's confidence in the commitment and ability of the project's partners to create a landmark visual arts centre for Colchester and the region.

"This is also a key step forward in the regeneration plans for this part of Colchester. "

EEDA will work with Colchester Borough Council, Essex County Council, the University of Essex and the Arts Council England East to oversee the project.

Internet Links:

www.firstsite.uk.net

www.eastofengland.uk.com

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