The trustees of Huntingdon’s Commemoration Hall are confident they will be able to create a multi-purpose arts venue for the town, despite an 18-month hiatus which saw the building mothballed to save cash.
Board members have made no secret of the fact that the historic hall was weeks away from bankruptcy when it was closed in April 2017, but say they are now back on track with some new plans and a development fundraising project.
Vice-chairman Dominic Whitehead told the Hunts Post costly repairs had drained finances and meant there was no capital funding for much-needed refurbishment, estimated to be in the region of £1 million.
Plans to refurbish the building, some of which is Grade-II listed, and create a new arts centre had to be put on hold when a professional fundraiser, who sat on the board of trustees, stood down.
“As far as I am aware it has always run at a loss or, at best, broke even, but we now have a new board of trustees, some of whom have financial, charity and business expertise and we are hopeful this is the start of a new journey as we are now in a position of considerable strength.” said Mr Whitehead.
“Huntingdon needs a town centre venue for theatre, cinema, music, art and photography - somewhere to encourage and celebrate visual and creative talent,” he added.
Talking about the closure, he explained: “We know some people were not happy, but we closed down for all the right reasons - we were only six weeks away from bankruptcy.
“The fabric of the building is old and tired and we can’t just continue to stick putty in the gaps, it needs a major overhaul. We have been fighting against the elements for some time now and we need to ensure this building is fit for the 21st century.”
The Commemoration Hall is a registered charity with a board of 13 trustees made up of volunteers and Huntingdon town councillors. There has been a Commemoration Hall in the town since 1847, but the current building dates from the 1940s and is, in fact, a war memorial for the fallen of the town.
Much of the money to build the hall came from fundraising and donations and the ethos has always been to provide a venue for the people, so hire costs are kept low.
The new board met on January 14 and Mr Whitehead said a decision was made to use volunteers rather than staff to run the building to save cash.
“It is being run on an ad-hoc basis at the moment, but we are able to hire the building out and we hope the community will support us. We encourage anyone who wants to be involved to come forward.
“We have some ambitious plans and we have managed to save some money already by not using staff, but it is difficult in the current climate to raise public funds so we need help.”
For more information or to make a donation, contact chairman Scott Hutchison at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.commhall.org. You can also call 01480 455167.