Smiths Row Art Gallery set to move home after 42 years in bid to regenerate Bury St Edmunds station

Smiths Row

Smiths Row - Credit: Archant

A top tourist attraction in the heart of Bury St Edmunds has announced “exciting” plans to move to the Station Master’s House, in a bid to help regenerate the area.

Smiths Row Art Gallery is hoping to start a new chapter in their 42 year history by relocating from their home on Cornhill.

The proposal comes as St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Suffolk County Council have cut their funding, but a private sector partner is backing the project with a “phenomenal” sum of money.

Director Alison Plumridge admitted leaving their Grade I listed home would be a “sad day” but was excited about the possibilities the new venue would bring.

She said: “It is incredibly exciting for the gallery. We want to open up the Station House to the public and help regenerate the area. We are looking at establishing a community rail partnership which could see us use the waiting room on the Ipswich side platform (at Bury) and have a presence at Stowmarket as well. We will be able to stretch out along the Cambridge to Ipswich line.”

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The new venue, which has been unoccupied for 20 years, will give the contemporary art gallery more than double its current space.

“We will give residency to local artists, mainly graduates who are currently leaving the area to work in London,” Ms Plumridge said. “The gallery can realise all of the ambitions we have had for a long time. We want to work with partners up and down the line. Art has a long history with the rail industry and we want to continue that.”

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The gallery has received a £10,000 grant from Arts Council England for the feasibility study as well as support from consultants Transport Regeneration and Abellio Greater Anglia.

Ms Plumridge hopes that by having an open gallery on the platform, they can reach a wider audience. She said: “Trains bring people from all parts of society together, the potential of this site, and projects along the line, is huge.”

Sarah Stamp, St Edmundsbury Cabinet member for culture, said: “We are delighted that Smiths Row is seeking to play a major role in the regeneration of the Bury train station.”

The gallery will be joining the Milkmaid Folk Arts Centre at the station. The folk club is moving to a similar building across the platform. The public can hear about the plans at Smiths Row today from 6pm to 8pm.

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