Town hall ‘buzzing’ as hundreds celebrate £200k refurbishments - and condemn senseless vandals
Hundreds attended a Suffolk town hall yesterday to celebrate refurbishments to the Grade II Listed building - and show “solidarity” in response to a senseless act of vandalism.
Eye Town Hall’s “unofficial opening” was planned to give the community a chance to see some of the £200,000 improvements carried out before the project’s completion this summer.
A team of volunteers had been working “flat out” overseeing essential roof repairs, new toilets and upgraded lighting facilities as part of ambitions to revive the hall’s role as a “community hub”.
However, the celebrations were nearly overshadowed by vandals who broke in over the bank holiday weekend and tore holes in four of the 19th century oil paintings in the council chambers.
Members of the town hall committee had arrived to make final preparations on Monday when they discovered the damage.
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Committee chairman Caroline Byles said the vandalism was an attack on Eye’s heritage - but the community would not be “rocked” and had turned out in their hundreds to yesterday’s celebration. “It was really marvellous,” she added. “We had at least double or treble the number we normally have and the town hall was really buzzing.”
The event featured musical performances from the Gislingham Silver Band and a ukulele band, the regular Wednesday market and a speech by Eye mayor Colin Ribchester explaining the improvements.
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Some of the visitors asked to see the vandalised paintings and were said to be “horrified”.
“People were completely shocked by what had happened,” Ms Byles added. “However, we’re just not going to be rocked by it - we’re getting on with the project.”
The final improvement works are set to resume this summer when new toilets will be completed in time for an official opening in September.
Ms Byles said she hoped the improvements would enable wider use of the hall. “We want people to see what a large space we have and what wonderful facilities there are,” she added. “Because getting the building right is just the first step. After that we’re going to get a dedicated website set up and we want to make this into a real community hub for people of all ages.”
The committee thanked Historic England, Suffolk County Council and Mid Suffolk District Council for their financial support.