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

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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