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Thetford’s empty St Peter’s Church to be brought alive as community hub, with cafe and music space, for all to enjoy

PUBLISHED: 17:30 24 October 2017 | UPDATED: 08:19 25 October 2017

Thetford-based SIMPLE Norfolk, known for their Inspire Focus project, have taken over St. Peters church in the town. Carla and Joe Barreto are pictured with Jair Ribeiro, right, Kevin Barreto, and Claudia Fernandes. Picture: Sonya Duncan

Thetford-based SIMPLE Norfolk, known for their Inspire Focus project, have taken over St. Peters church in the town. Carla and Joe Barreto are pictured with Jair Ribeiro, right, Kevin Barreto, and Claudia Fernandes. Picture: Sonya Duncan

ARCHANT EASTERN DAILY PRESS (01603) 772434

Music and joy will once again fill a 14th century church which has stood empty for the majority of the past nine years.

St Peter's Church in Thetford. The church had been stood mostly empty for nine years. Picture: Angela Sharpe St Peter's Church in Thetford. The church had been stood mostly empty for nine years. Picture: Angela Sharpe

One of Thetford’s three surviving medieval churches, St Peter’s, on Whitehart Street, was bought by the town council from the Norwich Diocese in 2008 for just £1. Although works were done to revamp the building it was left unused.

However, Thetford-based community voluntary organisation SIMPLE Norfolk, has taken on the lease and has vowed to bring life back into the Grade-II listed building while also maintaining its heritage.

The organisation, whose youth project Inspire Focus - which supports young people into education, careers and volunteering - will use the church as a base, will turn the space into a community hub.

Renamed St Peter’s Cultural Arts Centre, it will house a piano-bar style cafe, where people can pick up an instrument and play, and will also be a music venue.

A design of what the piano-bar cafe could look like at St Peter's Church, Thetford. Picture: SIMPLE Norfolk A design of what the piano-bar cafe could look like at St Peter's Church, Thetford. Picture: SIMPLE Norfolk

Joe Barreto, who runs SIMPLE Norfolk with his wife Carla, said: “It is about having a place that the community feels proud of and it can use. We don’t want this to be a temporary thing; we want it to be long term.

“Young people should have a place they can depend on. We want to make this available for them and we want to make it a place for the town.”

The couple said work to refurbish the church will be a gradual process. They hope to re-do the flooring and repaint the inside walls. They also want to preserve stones on the centre aisle by creating a glass floor and hope to encase the altar in glass to protect and keep it for people to enjoy.

“It is one of the oldest buildings in the town and is a place people feel a connection with,” said Mrs Barreto, who has said young people will be trained to work in the cafe. “We want to be able to preserve it and for it to be a place where people can enjoy and be proud of.”

Thetford-based SIMPLE Norfolk, known for their Inspire Focus project, have taken over St. Peters church in the town. Carla and Joe Barreto are pictured with Kevin Barreto, right, Claudia Fernandes and Jair Ribeiro. Picture: Sonya Duncan Thetford-based SIMPLE Norfolk, known for their Inspire Focus project, have taken over St. Peters church in the town. Carla and Joe Barreto are pictured with Kevin Barreto, right, Claudia Fernandes and Jair Ribeiro. Picture: Sonya Duncan

The space will also include an infinity photography studio which will be used by Inspire Focus youngsters but will also be available to the community.

The couple are hoping to raise money to help with the work.

They have applied for an Aviva Community Fund grant but need people’s votes. Click here for more information.

Suffolk singer and song writer Alton Wahlberg will play an acoustic night, featuring other local artists, at the St Peter’s Cultural Arts Centre on Friday, November 17 from 7pm.

Inside St Peter's Church. This will be the cafe's seating area. People will be invited to pick up and instrument and play music while visitors enjoy their drinks. Picture: Sonya Duncan Inside St Peter's Church. This will be the cafe's seating area. People will be invited to pick up and instrument and play music while visitors enjoy their drinks. Picture: Sonya Duncan

Tickets are available on the door.

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