One man’s vision to make folk art accessible to the masses has moved a step closer to reality.
Terry Walden has long dreamt of bringing all branches of the Bury St Edmunds Milkmaid Folk Arts Community Interest Company (CIC) together under one roof.
He had already obtained planning permission to refurbish the building at the back of the railway station in Fornham Road and is now celebrating having secured a 35-lease on the property – a feat which has taken three long years.
“I’m elated, absolutely elated,” said Terry.
Having agreed a lease for the Milkmaid Folk Arts Centre is expected to open up doors to funding, with £540,000 needed to complete the necessary landscaping, outside repairs and inside works, which will include a new staircase, toilets, cafe, stage area, auditorium, dress circle, green room and three workshops.
To celebrate the important milestone, Terry held a refurbishment launch at the Grade II listed building on Saturday with Milkmaid patrons Dave Pegg and Anthony John Clarke invited to cut the ceremonial ribbon, signifying the start of the ‘really hard work’.
Milkmaid groups currently meet in different locations around the town, including the Apex, Constitutional Club and St John’s Centre.
Terry said: “We wanted a building of our own. We could be a seven day a week operation and not have to worry about booking venues and trying to find rooms.”
Once up and running, the Milkmaid Folk Centre will be home to textile arts, drama, crafts, music and dance.
It is aiming to open at the end of 2016 and will provide a day centre for people with disabilities from Monday to Friday and will be available for use by the wider community at evenings and weekends.