Dragon Hall director Stephanie Potts is stepping down - but she plans to stay in her adopted home of Norwich

Stephanie Potts helped put Norwich's Dragon Hall on the tourist map and helped turn it into a hub for the community.

She took over in July 2004, just as the unique medieval hall, in King Street, was about to enter an extensive programme of restoration, extension and redevelopment.

With the help of a �1.8m Heritage Lottery Fund award, Dragon Hall closed for extensive works in January 2005 and reopened in April 2006. Since then it has featured in national press and TV and become renowned as much more than a heritage attraction.

The hall, originally built in 1430 by Norwich merchant, mayor and MP Robert Toppes has become a popular venue for weddings, parties and celebrations of all kinds. And it provides education opportunities through tours, talks and workshops as well as highly-praised tailored visits for schools.

Ms Potts has steered it through this transitional time and her innovative initiatives have enabled bosses to balance the need to generate income to continue to care for Dragon Hall while never losing sight of the core cultural and educational charitable aims.

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Ms Potts also instigated the promotion of arts events of all kinds.

Early events included performances from local bands, novelist Louis de Bernieres and a groundbreaking poetry night featuring Norwich based poets Luke Wright, John Osborne and Tim Clare, who have gone on to national recognition.

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Other events at Dragon Hall have ranged from the recent sell-out show by hip hop poet Scroobius Pip to regular drama by Crude Apache and music from performers as diverse as Big Sky Choir and The Hee Hews.

During her time in charge, events such as the medieval Christmas market have introduced Dragon Hall to new people as well as raising funds, and the relaxed atmosphere at its beer festival established it as one of the most female friendly around.

Having relocated to Norwich from Nottingham to take up the position as director of Dragon Hall, Ms Potts, originally from Sheffield, plans to stay in her adopted city where she has become well known.

She said: 'Norwich is such a lovely place to live and just now I really can't think of anywhere I'd rather be. While Sheffield is my home town and I love it, I also love Norwich. I like the scale of it. While it's not as big as Sheffield, it's got everything you need.'

She is leaving to spend more time on her art – she was awarded an MA at Norwich University College of the Arts in 2010 – and take up freelance opportunities.

She added: 'Being director at Dragon Hall was a big commitment and it did take over my life. It got to a point when it just felt right to give it up.

'I want to make time to do more of my own work and explore other options. I was also recently made chair of Museums Norwich and hope to develop that more.

'I'll miss Dragon Hall and all the volunteers, but I'm sure it will go from strength to strength.

'There's still potential to develop it as a museum and to make more use of the collections. There is stuff here that still needs to be archived and sorted out.'

One part of Norwich she will not miss seeing on a daily basis is the derelict land known as St Anne's Wharf, near to Dragon Hall and leading down to the river.

This part of Norwich, which was once earmarked for hundreds of new homes, has stood empty for years and detracts from the view of Dragon Hall from the other side of the river.

She added: 'When I took over there were plans at St Anne's Wharf for a new shiny part of the city with houses and offices, but the area has deteriorated, which is quite depressing. And we sometimes feel we are a bit out on a limb here with not very much signage.'

Prior to coming to work in Norwich, she worked in Nottingham for Sambawamba carnival art for a year as manager.

Prior to that she was press and publicity officer for the museums service in Sheffield. She was also assistant manager at a pub and admits she might have gone into pub management. 'I enjoyed it but it did not stretch me enough,' she said.

David Bissonnet, chairman of The Norfolk & Norwich Heritage Trust, the independent charity that cares for Dragon Hall, said: 'We're very sad to see Stephanie go, but at the same time extremely grateful for the tremendous energy, commitment and expertise she has brought to Dragon Hall.

'It is always difficult to lead an organisation through a period of change and Steph has managed this with great diplomacy and skill. She will leave us with a solid base and a committed staff team to take Dragon Hall into the future.'

Do you know someone who would make a good Evening News Original? Call reporter David Bale on 01603 772427 or email david.bale2@archant.co.uk.

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