New theatre and arts department ends £4m of improvements at North Walsham’s Paston Sixth-Form College

Paston Sixth Form College has spent £1.5M revamping it's theatre and art based courses building pict

Paston Sixth Form College has spent £1.5M revamping it's theatre and art based courses building pictured is principal Kevin Grieve.Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

The transformation of a Norfolk college's art department and theatre has brought the curtain down on some £4m of improvements over the past three years.

Drama, art, photography and textiles students at Paston Sixth Form College, in North Walsham, have begun using their new facilities after a £1.5m refurbishment which began last summer.

Their new-look department, named Griffon Studios, features a new entrance and roof, and the interior has been completely re-configured to create light, airy teaching spaces, and practice rooms.

A new theatre features the latest digital sound, lighting and production technology, according to head of drama, Simon Thompson.

'It's an amazing space - purpose-built and multi-functional. We couldn't ask for better,' he added.


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A-level drama student Imogen Osborn, 17, said she had been to see productions in the old theatre before joining the college in September.

'It's much better used now. There's more space and it's more open,' she added.

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Improvements to other sections include a dark room, catering for a growing number of students who want to experiment with pre-digital cameras.

'It's made me re-think what we can do here,' said Matt Phelps, head of the college's arts faculty.

'We've now got bigger tables so we can produce eight-foot drawings and work on a bigger scale.'

The textiles area features a large, purpose-made screen-printing sink plus a separate, clean, room for sewing.

The public will be able to view the changes when the building is officially opened as part of the college's annual fashion, art and theatre show, on June 11.

College principal Kevin Grieve said the art block, dating from 1939, had become cramped, tired and outdated.

He successfully applied for funding to the government's Building Condition Improvement Fund, specifically aimed at sixth-form colleges.

The fund had now ended but over the past three years Paston had benefited from about £4m of cash from it which had also been used to upgrade the student services and study areas, and create a new science block.

'I think it's made a significant difference in terms of the quality of study and classroom facilities we can offer,' said Mr Grieve.

Paston, which has about 730 students, celebrated its 30th anniversary as a sixth-form college last year. Formerly known as The Paston School, its most famous Old Boy was Lord Nelson, who was a pupil there between 1768-1771.

? Has your school or college got something to celebrate? Contact alex.hurrell@archant.co.uk

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