An open letter to Chris Bamfield and West Norfolk Council: Like many people, I have enjoyed visiting the Guildhall of St George and Arts Centre whilst growing up in the town and have respect for the venerable history of the venue.
The Guildhall itself helped shape my interest in the arts when I was growing up, and I saw many emerging artists trying to break into the arts including names such as Lee Evans, Jo Brand, Julian Clary amongst others.
I wasn’t aware that the council was planning to redevelop the site until quite recently when I was sent a survey link with plans and a questionnaire which I completed and returned. However I now understand that a meeting has taken place recently between the council and some of the future hirers of the venue and that plans are progressing quite rapidly towards seeking funding. My main concern is that this plan is being developed and is pushing forward, when the council hasn’t even engaged with all the relevant groups of potential future hirers. If you haven’t identified all of them, or started any dialogue, how can you possibly know their views and opinions? The danger here is that the council will push this plan forward and Lynn will end up with a newly refurbished space that doesn’t quite serve the requirements of its users, or its audiences.
This happened with the Corn Exchange to a certain extent. The building conversion was done well, but the end product is without adequate wing space to stage proper shows with full sized sets, there is no fly tower so scenery cannot be flown in and out, and there was no proscenium arch until many of the local theatre groups clubbed together and bought a curtain one still in use to this day.
This is a prime example of the council steaming ahead on redevelopment schemes without fully consulting groups who will use the facilities in the future. Consultation is never a negative thing and can only help with progress if you just take the time to engage.
Jon Calton, by email