Upgrade plans for Huntingdon’s Commemoration Hall ‘are on track’ - trust says

Dominic Whitehead at the Commemoration Hall

Dominic Whitehead at the Commemoration Hall - Credit: Archant

The future of Huntingdon’s historic Commemoration Hall should become clearer in around a year’s time, the vice-chairman of the trust which runs it has said.

Huntingdon's Commemoration Hall

Huntingdon's Commemoration Hall - Credit: Archant

An ambitious £10m plan to create a multi-purpose arts centre remains at the top of the trust’s wish list but there are other options for upgrading the town centre building, depending on how much money can be raised.

A professional fundraiser has been appointed to bring in the cash to refurbish the building which closed to public use a year ago when the trustees faced bankruptcy because income at the hall was not covering costs.

Dominic Whitehead, vice-chairman of the trust, said: “The fundraiser is confident he will raise a seven figure sum.

“Obviously we would like to put the building into a position where it will be fit for purpose for the next 50 years. If we are successful it will be fit for purpose for years to come.”

Mr Whitehead said that a £9.8 million upgrade would create a multi-purpose arts venue, with separate performing spaces, a cafe and would be open seven days a week and if £4-5 million could be raised it would bring significant improvements to the building and at least three performance areas which could be hired separately.

Raising £1 million would enable them to give the hall a facelift and create a second venue in the basement.

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Mr Whitehead said he was concerned at rumours that nothing was happening with the building when there was a lot going on behind the scenes, especially in trying to organise finance, which would probably involve match funding.

He said it had been “very difficult” to make the decision to close the hall, but it was not making enough money to cover the running costs and capital expenditure.

Closure meant there was enough money to keep the building ticking over while the refurbishment plans were put together.

Mr Whitehead said the fundraiser was now in the process of preparing bids for capital from a range of sources and the trust had allowed a year for its business plan to reach this stage which was on schedule.

They hope to reach a point where funding was complete to allow work to start at some stage next year.

Up until around five years ago Huntingdon Town Council covered most of the costs of the public building.

The trustees, who are all volunteers, are also looking for others to get involved in the project.