Call to save town's Corn Exchange

By Danielle NuttallMORE than 120 people packed a public meeting last night to have their say on the future of a town's arts and entertainment facilities.

By Danielle Nuttall

MORE than 120 people packed a public meeting last night to have their say on the future of a town's arts and entertainment facilities.

The meeting was organised by the Ipswich Arts Association and concerned the future of the Corn Exchange, Regent Theatre and New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich.

It followed a report, commissioned by the Labour administration at Ipswich Borough Council that lost power last week, that put forward four options for the development of arts and entertainment facilities in Ipswich.

Dozens of arts, theatre and music organisation representatives attended last night's meeting at the Town Hall, most of whom spoke out against any moves to change the use of the Corn Exchange.

Joy Bounds, chairman of the Music Forum, which is part of the Ipswich Arts Association, said it had carried out a questionnaire among its members asking how they would be affected if the use of Corn Exchange changed.

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Most of the groups claimed they relied upon the facility and could go bust or close if it became unavailable with no suitable alternative.

Martin Nightingale, chairman of the Ipswich Choral Society, added: “Certainly the closure or unavailability of the Corn Exchange would be extremely serious as far as we are concerned.

“Ninety per cent, if not more, of classical music produced in Ipswich is produced by amateur groups.

“If you take away the ability of amateur societies to produce their music, you might actually be stopping some of the young musicians learning and developing their talents.”

One of the options considered by the report indicated that the Corn Exchange should be sold off, while others suggested that the Regent Theatre could be mothballed or funding for the New Wolsey Theatre cut back.

However, the new Conservative/Liberal Democrat administration running the council has been drawing up its own arts strategy, which should be published within the next few weeks.

Conservative borough councillor, Judy Terry, reassured the meeting there was no intention of disposing of the Corn Exchange and added the council was looking at ways of extending the facilities the town currently offered.

But the building remained the main topic of debate, with members of the public fiercely defending its value.

Pat Grimwade, of the Ipswich Orchestral Society, said: “At the moment there are complaints that London has no hall of adequate acoustic quality.

“We have a hall with fine acoustics in the Corn Exchange and that hall is in fact the envy of Norwich, Cambridge, Chelmsford and Colchester.

“There is no other hall of that quality with the platform space that we have in the wonderful grand hall.”

She called for the council to establish the Corn Exchange as a community venue as its number one priority.

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