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Hunstanton art gallery to open at the Coal Shed

It has been a site of fierce division in the town, but now the Coal Shed in Hunstanton, is set to return to its previous existence as an art gallery.

The building in Le Strange Terrace, the last remaining link to the resort's railway station, was earmarked to become an unmanned tourist information centre following the closure of the manned one in the nearby town hall.

That caused an outcry and more than 2,000 people signed a petition against and now the TIC will be at the Oasis leisure centre on the seafront instead.

Late Afternoon Hunstanton by Jill Ilett (46371388)
Late Afternoon Hunstanton by Jill Ilett (46371388)

The Coal Shed will now host Naked Norfolk, which was formerly briefly in Westgate Terrace before it closed when lockdown was imposed in November.

This is the creation of Jacqueline Kitch, 56, a former hospitality sector worker, who opens her relocated venture on Sunday, May 2.

Backing from West Norfolk Council, with support from the Hunstanton and District Civic Society (HDCS), converted the property into a gallery in 2008.

Jacqueline Kitch (46371293)
Jacqueline Kitch (46371293)

Jacqueline said she and her husband were walking past the building in lockdown and "it was just there".

She said: "My husband and I love the building and we always make a bee line for it on our walks. I could not believe my luck when I walked past and saw that the building was empty and after making enquiries through the borough council and through the Civic Society, I managed to secure a lease.

"I have lots of local artists and artisans coming on board along with some of the old favourites that were previously in the gallery and shop and on the website.

"The lockdown has been tough on lots of local businesses and at one time I was ready to just give up but now the Coal Shed Gallery door has opened and I am going to jump straight through it!"

The Coal Shed Gallery became Hunstanton's tourist information centre in the summer (46371368)
The Coal Shed Gallery became Hunstanton's tourist information centre in the summer (46371368)

Jacqueline admits she is not making it easy for herself, for on the day the gallery opens she also happens to be moving house from Lynn to Hunstanton!

"It's a big day!" she laughs.

The clue as to what you'll find in the gallery is in the name. "It is all about Norfolk," she said. "Norfolk with a Naked eye.

"When I took some time to survey what was on offer from local artists I could not believe how much talent there is out there, I said 'Goodness me!' Some just did not the confidence to put it out there and so that is what the gallery is doing."

Many of the artworks are priced at the £100-mark or so. "It is supposed to be affordable. At Westgate Street I sold 44 pictures in October before closing."

A spokesperson for the HDCS said: "Hunstanton and District Civic Society is delighted that this iconic building will finally be put to good use. We believe that the art gallery and retail offer will enhance the area and bring vibrancy to Le Strange Terrace".

NakedNorfolk @The Coal Shed Gallery opens its doors on Sunday, May 2, at noon and asks that customers remain Covid aware and follow the Covid guidelines at all times.

The gallery will be open Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and 'sunny Sundays' and bank holidays between noon and 7pm.

Check out the website on www.nakednorfolk.co.uk

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