John Peel Centre aims to expand band of volunteers to protect legacy
As a Suffolk arts centre named after a legendary broadcaster celebrates its third birthday, a call has been made for more volunteers to ensure the venue continues to run smoothly as it expands.
The John Peel Centre for Creative Arts, in Stowmarket, was opened with the help of Wilko Johnson in 2013.
The opening was the culmination of a project to transform the former Corn Hall, which is believed to have been built between 1860 and 1870.
However, the centre, run almost entirely by volunteers, is looking for more people who might be able to give up their time and help it continue to flourish.
Volunteers director Paulin Goonan said: “We’re getting busier all the time, we have a lot more events and for that we need more volunteers.”
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Mrs Goonan said the centre, which is a community interest company, is “really lucky because we’ve got amazing volunteers and it’s trying to build on that.”
Volunteers would not just be doing menial jobs, however, she stressed –there is plenty for people to get involved in.
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“There’s lots of stuff we can do – people volunteer on the bar for the gigs, and do things like cleaning,” Mrs Goonan said.
“We all get on really well and have a good laugh.”
The centre also operates a reward scheme, so once people have volunteered for so many hours they can get money off tickets to events.
Mrs Goonan, who has been in the position for six years, said: “People want to come and see things in their own area, make friends and being part of something that’s really special.
“It’s unique – it’s a special building, but with a special meaning, being named after John Peel – it’s so important we live up to that name.”
The centre currently has 30 active volunteers, who give up various levels of their time to support the venue.
“You can do it when it suits you,” Mrs Goonan said.
“We have volunteers who do our accounts – all are promotions are done by volunteers.
“There’s no age limit either – we really believe on giving people an opportunity however old or young people are.
“If you want to volunteer we want you.”
The centre also has sound engineers from Ipswich college One helping out at the venue as part of a training programme.
Mrs Goonan said it was not only volunteers who were encouraged to get involved – as the centre holds regular free open mic nights.
She said: “We actively encourage people to come in and do their stuff.
“Nobody is going to put someone down, that’s one of the really nice things about the centre.”
Mrs Goonan added: “A lot of people put on really big bands – we have those guys, but we’re really about giving people a leg up and an opportunity.
“One night we’re putting on a gig, the next day an exhibition and the next day theatre. Open mic nights are my favourite – you never know what’s going to happen
“We want to help the people who haven’t got anyone to help them. We try really hard to look after them – bands that play at the centre.”
Mrs Goonan also praised Peel’s widow, Sheila Ravenscroft: “Sheila looks after them. She’s an amazing lady.”
She also praised the town council: “They are very good to us.
“They have given us so much support. They are fantastic, giving us grants – financially they help us.”
The centre will also be getting some extra space, behind the stage, which was originally part of the Corn Hall, but had been used by NatWest bank until recently.
The space will be used for storage and as a green room.
For more information on the John Peel Centre, visit www.johnpeelcentre.com or call 01449 774678.