Music centre plans destroyed by delays

Hopes for a state-of-the-art £2m music centre for disadvantaged Norfolk children and adults have been destroyed after nine years' worth of delays cost organisers their lottery funding, it was announced yesterday.

Hopes for a state-of-the-art £2m music centre for disadvantaged Norfolk children and adults have been destroyed after nine years' worth of delays cost organisers their lottery funding, it was announced yesterday.

The Arts Council England has taken back £1.6m awarded to Community Music East (CME) in 1997 for the centre originally planned for a disused warehouse in King Street then latterly for the old studio building at the back of Norwich Theatre Royal.

CME planned to use the centre to build on its established work increasing opportunities and confidence for people with mental and physical disabilities, women's groups, prisoners and the unemployed.

The facility to include rehearsal space and a recording studio was expected to become a national centre of excellence and was originally tabled to open in 1998.

But nine years' worth of delays including a fight to find a suitable site and money to close the funding gap along with rocketing property prices has led to the failure of the dream project.

A statement issued by the Arts Council England yesterday read: “Various factors have caused persistent delays in the building's development, which have led to a challenging increase in costs that have undermined its viability.

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“CME recognises the Arts Council's decision as an opportunity to refocus, develop and extend its services. The Arts Council acknowledges the continuing value of CME's work that involves disadvantaged groups and communities in creative learning activities using music, media and multi-disciplinary artforms.

“In support of these aims the stakeholders, including the Arts Council, will work with CME to agree a positive transition out of the proposed capital project to build on the successful programmes that have established the organisation over the last 21 years.

Ben Higham, director of CME, said that no-one, including the organisation itself, was to blame for the disappointment.

He said there “was a conflict of different agendas which led to the delays” but would not expand any more.

“It is clearly very disappointing that this situation has occurred,” he said while offering reassurances that CME's current work would continue.

Nikki Rotsos, head of Cultural Services at Norwich City Council, said: “Obviously it is very sad that the project won't come to fruition. However CME do really valuable work in using music to inspire and raise people's aspirations and I am sure that will continue.”

Mari Martin, County Arts officer at Norfolk County Council, said: “We are sorry to hear that, for a number of reasons, the development of the Music Centre is unable to go ahead. However, we look forward to working with, and supporting CME, so that its positive work continues in the future.”