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Cambridgeshire arts group gets money to turn derelict mill into new venue

image copyrightCambridgeshire County Council
image captionSpencer Mill used to produce flour and animal feed but has become derelict since it closed in the 1980s
Plans to convert a derelict 19th Century mill into an arts centre can proceed after funding was secured.
Cambridgeshire County Council approved a £500,000 grant to restore Spencer Mill in Soham, which it said had been a "magnet for vandalism" for 30 years.
The Viva Arts and Community Group now has the £2.4m needed to build a new roof and auditorium plus an extension to include a stage and cinema.
Work at the three-storey building is expected to be completed by March.
image copyrightVIVA!
image captionWith no permanent base, the group has had to meet at venues including a Methodist hall and a sports centre
Viva started as a small youth theatre in Soham in 1997 and has grown to stage at least six major productions a year at venues all over the country.
With no permanent base, members have had to meet at places including Soham Methodist hall, a small room above their charity shop in the town and a sports centre.
It bought Spencer Mill in 2018 and has secured funding from more than 40 donors, including £600,000 each from The National Heritage Lottery Fund and East Cambridgeshire District Council.
Dan Schumann, who was 16 years old when he set up Viva, said: "It's just amazing. This is the final piece of the jigsaw.
"As someone who's worked in the theatre all my life, it's been devastating to see the industry I love just disappear [due to the coronavirus pandemic] but things like this give us hope that the arts will bounce back and bounce back stronger."
image copyrightCambridgeshire County Council
image captionPlans to restore the mill include a new roof, auditorium and extension to the building for live performances
The group cancelled all performances and activities until 2021 as lockdown began.
Announcing the grant, the county council said: "Spencer Mill has been derelict for over 30 years and is often a magnet for anti-social behaviour, vandalism and drug-related issues.
"The project will restore and extend the disused building into a vibrant community asset."
image copyrightDan Schumann
image captionThe mill has been "a magnet for anti-social behaviour and vandalism"
image copyrightDan Schumann
image captionDan Schumann set up Viva Arts and Community Group in 1997
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Related Topics

  • Theatre
  • Cambridgeshire County Council
  • Soham
  • East Cambridgeshire District Council