Hall looking good for £1.5m revamp
A scheme has been unveiled to redesign the Commemoration Hall in Huntingdon. The plan would move the stage into the basement and take up the floor, allowing permanent, raked seating to be installed for 200 people. The back of the building would also be ex
A scheme has been unveiled to redesign the Commemoration Hall in Huntingdon.
The plan would move the stage into the basement and take up the floor, allowing permanent, raked seating to be installed for 200 people.
The back of the building would also be extended and remodelled to create an upper floor with a dance studio and rehearsal space. A new upper floor of the building would be used as meeting rooms for the groups who now use the hall.
The front of the hall would include an art gallery and a cafe.
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For the past 18 months, acts have been booked by a group called Patch (Performing Arts at the Commemoration Hall), bringing top companies to play the hall. Since February, it has had a professional artistic director, Lydia Eldridge.
Ms Eldridge said: "We have had a wonderful response to the shows we have put on.
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"Now the town deserves a proper theatre. We want to put Huntingdon on the cultural map. We need to give this building its dignity back."
The refurbishment to the building in Huntingdon High Street could also involve a change of name - possibly to The Minerva Theatre, in recognition of the statue on top of the building of the Roman goddess of wisdom, Her title encompasses the arts and sciences.
Minerva was also the goddess of war so she encompasses all the uses of the hall so far.
However, the name change is unlikely to be welcomed by Huntingdon people who refer to the hall affectionately as "The Crem" and will probably continue to call it that.
A new design by Graham Campbell, of the Campbell Rees Partnership, has been taken up enthusiastically by both the current Commemoration Hall Trust and Huntingdon Town Council.
The Mayor of Huntingdon, Councillor Jeff Dutton, said: "This is an on-going project. We have been talking about it for some time. Graham Campbell's design is brilliant and we would have a wonderful new facility in the centre of the town to provide a fine venue for quality performances."
He estimated the cost at between £1.5million-£2million.
Cllr Dutton said from next month people from local theatre groups will be invited to become members of the trust and funding would be sought from The National Lottery. It was hoped that the project could be completed within five-seven years.
Town clerk Mike Kennedy said: "Huntingdon deserves a venue. The town is moving so rapidly and theatre audiences are going up. Funding is going to be the issue. We will need major sponsorship.
* The building was not originally constructed as a war memorial. It was built in 1840 as The Science and Reading Rooms (hence the Minerva statue). It included a small museum and art gallery. Some of the artefacts it housed are now in the Norris Museum in St Ives.
After the Second World War, the people of Huntingdon wanted a memorial to honour those who had died. However, in post-war Britain, they could neither raise enough money nor find a suitable place.
As a tribute to the war dead, the trustees of the Science and Reading Rooms renamed the building The Commemoration Hall.