'Jewel in the crown' claim for Wensum Lodge revamp
PUBLISHED: 12:57 16 January 2019 | UPDATED: 13:30 16 January 2019
An ambitious revamp to turn Wensum Lodge into a creative hub could make it Norwich’s ‘jewel in the crown’, councillors claim.
And the King Street venue could house a ‘major cultural attraction’, such as a costume museum.
The venue has been the base for Norfolk’s adult education services for more than 40 years, but bosses at Norfolk County Council say use of it has declined.
They commissioned Hudson Architects, to come up with a vision of how it could be turned into a creative hub.
While adult education courses would still be run, in revamped rooms, the council says new shared spaces would allow small creative and arts organisations and community groups to use the site.
The council says short-term rental space for start-up creative and arts organisations - and potentially spaces for exhibitions and shops - would bring in money to offset the £350,000 it currently costs the council to run the centre.
A new cafe is also planned and business support to help start-up companies to thrive.
Council officers are exploring whether what they describe as a ‘major cultural attraction’, such as a costume gallery for the Victoria and Albert Museum, could be created in the historic Grade I-listed Music House.
Ceri Sumner, the council’s assistant director for community, information and learning, said: “There isn’t anything of this nature in Norwich or Norfolk, so it really is exciting.
“It would fill a space which is not being filled elsewhere.”
Chris Jones, Labour councillor for Thorpe Hamlet, said: “I very much welcome this. It is a great opportunity. It could be a real jewel in the crown for Norwich.”
Nigel Dixon, Conservative councillor for Hoveton and Stalham, welcomed the vision, but raised concerns that the cost and funding had yet to be revealed.
Mrs Sumner said surveys of the buildings and feasibility studies needed to be done before an accurate picture of costs could be built up.
She said funding for the project will also be sought from organisations such as the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and Arts Council England.
Tom McCabe, the council’s director of community and environmental services, said if the financial figures did not stack up, there “might need to be a plan B”.