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Plans for Norwich to host a National Centre for Writing move a step closer

16:04 07 January 2016

Writers

Writers' Centre Norwich is based at Dragon Hall. Photo: Joanna Millington.

Joanna Millington

Writers’ Centre Norwich is celebrating being one step closer to realising its ambitious vision for a National Centre for Writing in the city.

Chris Gribble, chief executive of Writers' Centre Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith.Chris Gribble, chief executive of Writers' Centre Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith.

The arts organisation is based at Dragon Hall and hopes to open the new centre in the Grade I-listed building in early 2018.

The project - which includes building a new wing and developing the existing venue - has now received a major boost after securing £110,566 from Arts Council England and being invited to apply for a further £789,434 from the Arts Council’s capital funding programme.

This funding - combined with other money pledged from various trusts and foundations - would mean WCN has £300,000 left to raise of its £1.6m target.

Chris Gribble, WCN chief executive, said: “The National Centre for Writing will be a really significant achievement for England’s first UNESCO City of Literature and something that will place Norwich on the national and international cultural map. The centre will enable young people across the county to benefit from access to wonderful writing and learning experiences, support talented writers and literary translators across East Anglia as well as nationally and be a world class partner to the UEA’s Creative Writing programme and an international centre of excellence. With the support of Arts Council England, Norwich City Council, Norfolk County Council, UEA and a range of brilliant Norfolk Trusts and Foundations we are finally close to achieving something very special for Norwich, Norfolk and East Anglia.”

Helen Wilson, from the Writers' Centre Norwich, and David Bissonnet, chairman of the Dragon Hall Trustees, with a model of Dragon Hall showing the new south wing which will be built when Dragon Hall becomes the National Centre for Writing. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYHelen Wilson, from the Writers' Centre Norwich, and David Bissonnet, chairman of the Dragon Hall Trustees, with a model of Dragon Hall showing the new south wing which will be built when Dragon Hall becomes the National Centre for Writing. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

David Gilbert, WCN chairman, added: “This is the closest we’ve come to realising the vision to create something truly game changing for the city, the country and the literature sector. There is still much to do but we’ve taken a very big step forward and will be doubling our campaigning efforts to make sure we achieve this world-class venue for a world-class literary city.”

Gail Harris, deputy leader of Norwich City Council, said the project was “hugely exciting” for both WCN and the city.

She said: “It will help the centre achieve its long-term vision and give it the national recognition it so richly deserves. Dragon Hall is one of the most historic and atmospheric buildings in the city and it is wonderful to see it being developed in a way that will sustain it into the future.”

Hedley Swain, the south east area director for Arts Council England, said: “Writers’ Centre Norwich is in a really exciting period in its development and the move to Dragon Hall has been a strong catalyst for this. “The development plans outlined for Dragon Hall will help its ambitions to be a world class centre for writing.”

As well as leading the project for the National Centre for Writing, Writers’ Centre Norwich also runs a year-round programme of events and writing courses. These include the City of Literature weekend at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival in May, the Worlds Festival in June and Noirwich Crime Writing Festival in September.

To find out more about Writers’ Centre Norwich’s plans, visit www.writerscentrenorwich.org.uk

Do you have a Norwich arts story? Email arts correspondent Emma Knights at emma.knights@archant.co.uk

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