New-look Corn Exchange opens in St Ives

THEY took on the old town council, kicked them out of office and on Thursday, June 24 they gave St Ives back its Corn Exchange.

THEY took on the old town council, kicked them out of office and on Thursday, June 24 they gave St Ives back its Corn Exchange.

After four years of campaigning, planning, fundraising and hard work, the current members of St Ives Town Council and ACE – the action group set up to save the publically-owned Corn Exchange from being sold off – unveiled the refurbished Grade II-listed building.

The transformation of the hall, closed for health and safety reasons in 2001, has been hailed as a huge success.

The rubble and rubbish has been replaced with a modern and well appointed interior.

The Charter Hall – the largest of the meeting rooms which can accommodate up to 180 people – has a polished wooden floor, bar and kitchen. On the first floor are three further function rooms and the ACE suite, an open plan area that includes another bar. The building also has full disabled access and WI-FI.

The aim was to return the Corn Exchange to its role as the heart for the community. Only time and bookings will tell if this has been achieved, but it certainly got positive reviews during the official opening ceremony which was carried out by St Ives Mayor David Hodge.

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Prior to the unveiling of a plaque to mark the occasion, there was music and speeches from some of the key players.

Councillor Ian Dobson – a former ACE campaigner who successfully stood against the previous town council members – told the gathered crowd of sponsors and supporters that he was proud that the project had attracted backing from all corners of St Ives.

Schools, scouts, churches, individuals and businesses had all supported the “just short of �1million” project.

“The people of St Ives and in the neighbouring villages showed an iron will to save this Corn Exchange,” he added.

He and Martin Collier, the chairman of the community interest company which has been set up run the building, also highlighted the efforts of two individuals who made the project work: Michael Purchas, the businessman who owns the Golden Lion and put forward a realistic, affordable plan to save the building, and Mick George, the owner of the large skip hire business.

“Without them it wouldn’t have happened,” said Mr Collier.

Tony Burgess, chairman of ACE, which has converted from action group to fundraising/support group for the Corn Exchange, was the last of the trio to take to the stage.

But his musical interlude will most likely be remembered the most.

Mr Burgess, former headteacher of Westfield School, had written a Corn Exchange song for the occasion which followed the story of the building and the struggle to have it reopened.

“They wanted to sell the Corn Exchange,” he sang. “They said to save it was a fuss. They said it was a waste of money and not like the Guided Bus!”

INFORMATION: For bookings call Paula Luter on 01480 300963. ACE is also looking to raise funds to add more equipment including chairs. To sponsor a chair at �30 a time, send cheques, payable to ACE, to Paula Luter, The Fold, Priory Road, St Ives PE27 5BB. Visit