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Trust 'hopeful' public hall will remain open

PUBLISHED: 13:27 17 January 2020 | UPDATED: 13:28 17 January 2020

The sign outside the Rifle Hall says 'ready to hire', but more bookings need to be made. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

The sign outside the Rifle Hall says 'ready to hire', but more bookings need to be made. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Trustees of an historic public hall say they are hopeful it will remain open, despite fears it may be forced to close at the end of March.

Trustee Simon Weeks remains hopeful the Rifle Hall will remain open. Picture: SONYA DUNCANTrustee Simon Weeks remains hopeful the Rifle Hall will remain open. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

The Rifle Hall in Halesworth had previously been set to close on March 31 as "sufficient and sustainable revenue" to maintain running costs have dried up due to a lack of bookings.

However, a recent community meeting, where the public suggested ideas for the hall, has instilled fresh confidence in trustees that it will not be forced to close after all.

Trustee Dr Simon Weeks now says he is "hopeful" the hall will remain open beyond the end of March - but says more work still needs to be done to safeguard its future.

Dr Weeks said: "There does seem to be momentum behind keeping the hall open.

The Rifle Hall was refurbished when it was taken over the Rifle Hall Trust. Picture: SONYA DUNCANThe Rifle Hall was refurbished when it was taken over the Rifle Hall Trust. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

"Things are looking bright but we have to put these plans into action."

The Rifle Hall has a storied past in Halesworth, having started off as a theatre hall in 1792 before being converted into a military drill hall 70 years later.

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The listed building was named 'Rifle Hall' in memory of a former commanding officer Andrew Johnston.

Waveney District Council owned the building until 2011, when it was transferred to the Rifle Hall Trust - which spent vital resources on a refurbishment in an effort to make it a more attractive venue.

However, a decrease in bookings has threatened the hall, with trustees announcing its impending closure in December last year.

Dr Weeks previously described the venue as holding "a place of affection in many hearts" of the town's residents.

He said the building would have to close at the end of the financial year due to poor financial projections, with a shortfall of £2,000 per year anticipated.

However, more than 40 people attended a public meeting at the hall on Thursday January 16, where a range of suggestions were offered - including hosting bands, festivals and discos.

Dr Weeks confirmed an action planning meeting is due to be held soon with a number of volunteers who came forward at Thursday's meeting.

He added: "The response from the community has been very encouraging.

"We're hopeful that we'll be able to keep the hall open."

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