A partnership between Mid Suffolk District Council and the John Peel Centre is set to breathe new life into the vacant former NatWest building in Stowmarket – bringing art, leisure and entertainment into the heart of the town centre.
NatWest in Market Place closed its doors for the final time in September 2017. Mid Suffolk District Council then took on the building last year, with the aim of using it as a community space that the whole town could enjoy.
This week, its vision came a step closer – with the keys being handed to the neighbouring John Peel Centre for Creative Arts for an initial five months. The arts centre will use the opportunity to open up the building to the public and seek local views on how it can best be used in future.
Sheila Ravenscroft, wife of the legendary DJ and patron of the John Peel Centre, said:
“This is a fantastic opportunity for Stowmarket and for the John Peel Centre. We take pride in the variety of original music, poetry, film, theatre, comedy and private events we already host at our centre in Church Walk, but this partnership gives us a presence right in the heart of the town. Now we’re looking forward to exploring exactly how we can work together with the public and other venues in the town to bring a real vibrancy into the town centre – that’s a legacy John would have loved.”
Cllr Nick Gowrley, Mid Suffolk District Council’s cabinet member for assets and investment, said:
“We’re really excited about the future of the building and what it means for the town. Planning permission for a change of use to food and drink, assembly and leisure was approved unanimously last summer and now, by working with the John Peel Centre, we can start to think about exactly how that could work – and how we might showcase the town’s many attractions from this central site.”
Cllr Gerard Brewster, Mid Suffolk District Council’s cabinet member for economy, said:
“It’s wonderful that this vacant building in the heart of the town centre will enjoy a new lease of life as a gateway for entertainment and leisure in Stowmarket. Boosting visitors to our high street and market, and giving local residents a new and exciting community space in the heart of the town is great news for the town.”
The building will reopen its doors in coming weeks, once work is complete on initial displays and a ‘pop up’ community area, so people can start to give their views.