A NEW £1.7m arts centre and café will open at Greenham Business Park in spring 2018.
The state-of-the-art facility will be funded by Greenham Common Trust (GCT) in partnership with the Corn Exchange and will replace the ageing New Greenham Arts building, which is no longer fit for purpose and would cost more than £1m to repair.
The existing former airbase building was built as a temporary facility more than 40 years ago.
Located by the entrance to the business park, the trust hopes the new arts centre will become a hub, providing a home to some of the finest artists and makers in the country.
The purpose-built visual arts and craft complex will allow GCT and the Corn Exchange to establish a new destination venue for the district.
In addition to this new facility, the Corn Exchange will also launch a dedicated Learning Centre for its participatory arts programme in Newbury town centre.
It says it will increase the range of arts activities for the community and that its central location will provide easier access for residents and those taking part.
The Learning Centre will be launched in September 2017 with an extended programme of cultural and creative activities, enabling the Corn Exchange to work with more than 18,000 people every year.
The centre will include new activities for under-fives, as well as providing a dance space and home base for the venue’s Ageing Creatively programme for people aged 55 and over.
“We’re delighted to be able to offer financial support for these exciting new projects which will benefit those living in Newbury and the wider community,” said the trust’s chief executive Chris Boulton.
“The town centre development will allow the Corn Exchange to seek significant national funding in order to support the increased activities provided by the venue.
“This is good news for residents, artists, community groups and for local businesses as we attract more visitors to our town.
“It will put Newbury firmly on the map as one of the UK’s leading visitor attractions for the arts.”
Owing to the closure of New Greenham Arts, the New Greenham Tandoori Restaurant will be given a six-month notice period to vacate its premises in line with its current tenancy agreement.
GCT will seek a commercial operator to run a café in the new arts centre, which will be open to the public.
For those artists who are currently resident at New Greenham Arts, the Corn Exchange has committed to helping them form a co-operative to secure their future.
Co-directors of the Corn Exchange, Grant Brisland and Katy Griffiths, said: “The makers’ studios will support nine visual artists and craft makers from a range of disciplines.
“It will create an ethos of open working and engaging visitors in the art-making process, as well as providing regular pop-up exhibitions, courses and classes.
“This is a hugely exciting opportunity and Greenham Common Trust’s support and vision for this development will secure the future of visual arts and crafts locally.”
Commenting on the closure of New Greenham Arts, they added: “These exciting developments are tinged with sadness, as New Greenham Arts has played a hugely- important part in the Corn Exchange’s success over the last 15 years.
“The New Greenham Arts building was built more than 40 years ago and was only ever intended to be a temporary facility.
“The extent of the repair and renovation that would be required to continue to use it as a professional arts venue would require investment of more than £1m, which does not represent value for money for either Greenham Common Trust or the Corn Exchange.”
Regular users of New Greenham Arts, including artists and makers who currently have studios there, were informed of the developments last week. The chairman of the West Berkshire and North Hampshire Open Studios scheme, John Brazendale, said: “These are exciting times for the visual arts.
“The very idea of having a purpose-built facility at Greenham Business Park is both forward-looking and reassuring at a time when there is so much uncertainty elsewhere.
“It is wonderful news.”