North Walsham’s Paston Sixth Form College to have new £1.5m art block and theatre

Students gathered outside the old arts block at Paston Sixth Form College, North Walsham. Left to right, Jasper Hayward, Jasmine Brewer, Charlotte Waller and Megan Coe.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY Students gathered outside the old arts block at Paston Sixth Form College, North Walsham. Left to right, Jasper Hayward, Jasmine Brewer, Charlotte Waller and Megan Coe. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Alex Hurrell
Monday, May 19, 2014
8:00 AM

A planned new art block and theatre is the latest phase in the £4m-plus makeover of a Norfolk college where Lord Nelson was once a scholar.

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Work on the project is set to begin next month at Paston Sixth Form College, North Walsham, and should be ready by the end of the year.

The college is based on two sites: the Lawns and historic Griffons which was once a grammar school attended by Nelson and his brother between 1768-1771.

Kevin Grieve, principal of 800-student Paston, said student numbers had recently increased by 10pc in the art faculty with more applications to study art, graphical communication, textiles and photography.

The new building would provide state-of-the-art resources for them and its theatre would also allow Paston’s Far East Company to become even more ambitious.

The project will see the current 1939 theatre and art building given a new roof and entrance, and a complete interior refurbishment to include a foyer, new fully-equipped theatre, three large classrooms and new toilets and changing rooms.

The work is once again being funded by a maximum £1.5m grant from the government’s Building Condition Improvement Fund, according to Mr Grieve, who took over as principal two years ago.

Since that time Paston has also benefited from a £1m student services building, a £1.5m new study centre and science block, and the college has used its own cash to refurbish its library and “B Block”.

The investment followed a period of uncertainty when a developer was interested in buying Paston’s Lawns site, and building a Tesco on it, leaving the college to use the cash for expansion elsewhere; a bid which was eventually firmly rejected by the governing body.

“Students like the blend of the old and the new here - it’s unique,” said Mr Grieve. “They like two sites, which in many ways replicates a university, with a town centre close by. ”

Past Paston College arts students include Ryan House - whose stage name is Ryan Starling - an actor and TV presenter, and Dan Shorten, an award-winning director and designer who lectures at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

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