Takeover bid could see live music return to Open
- Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC
Live music, hospitality events and community use could return to the former Open in Norwich - if an ambitious bid to take it over is agreed.
The prominent building on Bank Plain has been empty for more than a year, after the financial collapse of the Open Norwich youth charity, which operated from the building.
Last month, Lind Trust boss Graham Dacre revealed that talks were under way over the building's future and that interest had been shown by "a third party operator" that was looking to restore a similar use to the one it previously had.
And it is now understood that this party is the team behind Epic Studios, which operates an events space and broadcasting studio from the former ITV Anglia studio on Magdalen Street and is preparing proposals to take over the building.
It would see live music, hospitality events and conferences return to the building, while there would also be the opportunity for other businesses in the creative sector to hire space within the building.
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Laura Rycroft, the previous chief executive of Open Norwich, who is now part of the team at Epic, said: "I know first hand the challenges the building has, having spent six months trying to work through them. We all know what a huge loss it has been for the community since it closed.
"I'm sure there are lots of people who would want to run it for this purpose, but there won't be many with the same level of experience and business acumen to make it work as the team at Epic."
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She added that, were an agreement to be made, it would open the door for parts of the building to be used for charitable purposes.
But that the collapse of the charity showed that it would not be viable for the whole building to be run on a not-for-profit basis.
She added: "We would also look to work with some of the previous tenants, many of whom are still homeless now.
"We also really want to offer training and apprenticeships, which will offer real life work experience to the kind of young people that benefitted from Open.
"It would be a business, not a charity, but it would still be there for the community and be accessible."
The proposals have been backed by city events organiser Elliot White, who began his booking career at Open. He said it was "a criminal offence" for a building of Open's size and potential to be empty
He said: "I think it's a brilliant idea. For an events organiser like myself, when Open closed it left a huge void and on a personal level it was devastating.
"There needs to be something like that in the city centre and with the right business behind it I believe it will fly."
Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South, said: ""The Open building is a fantastic and lovingly converted historic space.
"I would love to see it brought back into use as soon as possible. Our city's live events and creative sector have been hit hard by the pandemic.
"Re-opening 'The Open' would be a fantastic boost as would the return to the building of the fabulous in-house and outreach services for young people.
"This could also be the opportunity to do things even better next time. I'd like to see any successor to the Open Youth Trust again run not-for-profit."
Mike Stonard, Norwich City Council's cabinet member for sustainable growth, said: "It would be good to see the venue in use again for creative activities and events - and as a space for young people.
"It is really sad to see it empty. The Open Youth Trust was a great loss for the city and the young people who benefited from its services."