Diss Corn Hall looks at new lottery bid

A renewed bid to secure more than �1million in Heritage Lottery funding for improvements to the listed Diss Corn Hall building could be made.

The town council, hall owners the community management trust and Diss Museum are looking into the possibility of resubmitting an application for lottery funding to pay for better facilities at the popular venue, which has seen a fivefold increase in the number of people passing through its doors.

An original bid was refused because the heritage element was not considered strong enough, but town clerk Deborah Sarson said if a renewed application was made more emphasis would be placed on the hall's history in a part of the town centre with a long past.

In particular, she said the application would tell the story of how the hall in St Nicholas Street fitted in with other historic buildings in the area, including St Mary's Church and the museum.

The town council and management trust is hoping to provide better bar and catering facilities at the hall including a new caf�, while facilities for performers would also be improved with a separate stage from the main performance area.

Ms Sarson added a more efficient heating system was also needed at the building.

She said more information could be provided about the history of Corn Halls in Britain, which date back to the 19th Century when farmers needed a venue to trade their corn.

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'The principle is that we are looking at a heritage project that is far more than just the Corn Hall.

'There is a story to be told and it is about the Corn Hall and the context of its location and the relevance to the rest of the street in that heritage triangle and how the Corn Hall links with that and how there is an opportunity for us to deliver a story about the Corn Hall and the wider area, but it is going to involve a lot of partnership work and information gathering,' Ms Sarson added.

The hall has already been undergoing an ambitious �2million regeneration project, including the installation of a new floor and access ladder into the entrance lobby to create a room housing projection equipment, sound and lighting systems.

Since 2010, the entertainment and community venue has also undergone a redecoration with new acoustic panels installed, while existing workshops have been converted into new toilets.

A packed events programme has been lined up at the hall throughout the autumn and this week the Tashi Lhunpo monks from Tibet are in residence.

The hall has already received a �50,000 prize awarded at the EDP Pride in Norfolk Awards by Norfolk County Council last year.

The number of people visiting the venue has increased from 3,000 in January 2010 to the current figure of 15,000.

dominic.bareham2@archant.co.uk

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