Funding appeal for arts centre at Bury St Edmunds Railway Station

Milkmaid Folk Arts Centre want to turn the units behind the railway station in Bury into a community arts centre. ENGANL00120130925162901
Milkmaid Folk Arts Centre want to turn the units behind the railway station in Bury into a community arts centre. ENGANL00120130925162901

A folk music group is appealing for funding to help transform part of Bury St Edmunds Railway Station into a community arts facility including a day centre for the disabled.

The Milkmaid Folk Arts Centre Community Interest Company (CIC) hopes to open the £540,000 centre towards the end of next year at the back of the station, in Fornham Road.

It will provide a one stop venue where the disabled and able bodied can learn and enjoy music, dance, drama and art through tutorials, workshops, concerts and therapy.

They already have a 35 year lease from Greater Anglia, full council planning permission to revamp the Grade II listed building and £174,000 pledged from the Heritage Railway Trust.

However, they need to raise about £18,300 to pay John Stebbing Architects for their work on the project.

Terry Walden, managing director of the CIC which was developed from the Milkmaid Folk Club, said they have already managed to get £1,800 through people signing up for monthly donations on the company’s website.

He explained: “The response has been brilliant. We’ve probably got about 20 to 25 people now paying a banker’s order. It ranges from £2 to £5 a month which is great. It doesn’t sound a lot but over the year it could be £24 and if 1,000 people did that it’s a lot of money.”

While donations will help with the architects’ costs, they are working with Suffolk County Council to look at wider funding streams they could access such as Big Lottery Fund and the Arts Council.

The day centre for those with disablities and mental health issues would provide music therapy, music tuition, art sessions, drama and dance led by trained professionals.

It follows Milkmaid’s Thursday Folk Club and an instrument making project for the disabled at The Apex.

Mr Walden, who has worked with people with disabilities for several years, said: “We’re going to give them the opportunity to perform music and write music where ordinarily they wouldn’t ever access this kind of artform.

“We’ve had a music group and instrument making group for a year where we’ve made 24 string instruments and we play them.

“They’ve actually played infront of 500 people at Christmas on the Apex stage.”

He said that they plan to hold two productions a year featuring all the groups that will be involved in the centre.

Meanwhile, the centre will be available on evenings and weekends for community use.

The building will include a seating area for 120 people, a stage, three workshop areas and a refreshments area.

Mr Walden said they are working in partnership with Smiths Row, which is looking to move to a vacant building at the front of the railway station. On the whole project, he added: “It could be huge for Bury. We could become an arts capital in Europe with the Theatre Royal and Apex.”

Milkmaid will be going out to tender to builders used to working with Grade II listed buildings.

Anyone who would like to support them should visit www.milkmaidcentre.com