South East Wales

Campaigners' joy as Newbridge 'Memo' wins lottery funds

Campaigners battling to save an art deco hall from ruin are celebrating after winning £2.9m in lottery funding.

The Grade II listed Newbridge Memorial Hall, known as the 'Memo', will be restored for use by the community with the Heritage Lottery Funding award.

"It is the culmination of seven years of campaigning to save these magnificent buildings," said Howard Stone, the hall's chairman.

The 'Memo' narrowly lost in the 2004 UK final of the BBC's Restoration show.

Newbridge Institute and Memorial Hall was built by miners in 1925 to commemorate members of the local community who lost their lives in the World War I.

Its supporters say it is one of the UK's finest surviving early 20th century Art Deco cinema theatres, and claim it houses the largest ballroom in the south Wales valleys.

Entertainers such as Joe Loss, Clara Novello, Tom Jones, the Stranglers and Manic Street Preachers are said to have played there.

In 2006 Prince Charles made a special request to visit the building and threw his weight behind the restoration project which last year won £129,600 in HLF funding.

'Hall of fame'

Campaigners said this year's £2.9m award would go towards extensive repair and restoration of the building's dilapidated interior and exterior, and a new link building would be built to improve access.

A learning and outreach officer would be employed and up to 25 local people trained to help run the centre as visitor numbers increased.

Image caption Plans to restore the theatre were backed by Prince Charles during a visit in 2006

A 'Newbridge Hall of Fame' would also be set up to explore the social history of the area, celebrating local heroes such as photographer Angus McBean and singer James Dean Bradfield.

HLF chair Dan Clayton Jones explained the reasoning behind the award, saying: "It will bring a nationally important building back into use by a community who have worked hard to show how much they value it. "

He paid tribute to those who had campaigned to save the building: "Without the skill and dedication of the Memo team, this building would be facing a very uncertain future.

'Dedication'

Heritage Minister, Alun Ffred Jones, said the award was "great news" for the local community and for visitors to the area.

"The dedication and commitment of the community has to be applauded," he said.

Howard Stone, chair of the Newbridge Institute & Memorial Hall, said the decision was "a huge boost" for Newbridge and the wider community of south east Wales.

"It is a testimony to the determination of all our volunteers, who have never lost the will to fight for what they believed in," said Mr Stone.

"It shows that communities can make a difference, it takes hard work and tenacity and the dedication to go on even through the tough times."

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