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Arts centre ‘completely turned around’ after lockdown revamp

PUBLISHED: 11:51 22 October 2020 | UPDATED: 12:13 22 October 2020

Peter Brooke, chairman of Eyes Open CIC, and artistic and theatre director Andrew Deane outside the revamped Bank Arts Centre in Eye Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Peter Brooke, chairman of Eyes Open CIC, and artistic and theatre director Andrew Deane outside the revamped Bank Arts Centre in Eye Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Charlotte Bond

An Eye arts centre was ‘completely turned around’ in a revamp during the coronavirus lockdown thanks to a recovery grant and the efforts of tireless volunteers.

Andrew Deane took up his role over the summer Picture: CHARLOTTE BONDAndrew Deane took up his role over the summer Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

The Bank Arts Centre, in Castle Street, has reopened after work was done to make the venue Covid-secure, including the remodelling of the stage front into a service counter.

Work at the building, named after its former use as a bank, was funded by a grant of £2,000 from Mid Suffolk District Council.

The original cost of the revamp was estimated at £8,000 - but hard work from volunteers and savvy purchases of new items meant the overall cost was only a fraction of the sum.

Peter Brooke, chairman of the Eyes Open Community Interest Centre at the venue, said: “The community really came together. I’d like to thank everyone who took part in the refurb - we couldn’t have done it without them.

The work was estimated to cost £8,000, but volunteers' efforts kept the price down Picture: CHARLOTTE BONDThe work was estimated to cost £8,000, but volunteers' efforts kept the price down Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

“We always had the intention of doing something with the stage. This was an opportunity to provide a service counter.

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“We are far more compliant with the rules and regulations now. Over the space of three to four months we have completely turned it around.”

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Like many venues in Suffolk, the Bank Arts Centre was forced to close when the lockdown was introduced in March.

But the centre’s volunteers used the closure as an opportunity to carry out much-needed renovations, which have helped to ensure visitors can remain socially distanced to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19.

Students from the nearby Hartismere School were the first to host an exhibition at the venue after its long-awaited reopening with an art display.

The revamp has proved a hit with visitors to the arts centre, volunteers have said.

Andrew Deane, the venue’s recently-appointed artistic and theatre director, said: “It’s been very helpful in terms of sheer practicality, Covid aside. People are coming back and really loving it.

“People will feel safe coming here, which is a big thing at the moment. I think it will benefit everybody.

“There’s a really good feel to the place.”

Despite the improvements, Mr Brooke urged people to visit the centre and make use of its facilities to ensure it can survive in the long-term.

He added: “The bottom line is we are not sure about the future. It is precarious - we need to be very careful.”

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