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Thursday, 28 May 2015

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Vision for arts centre unveiled

Twist team: From the left, Marilyn Bowerbank, Ron Moule, Maurice Iley and Maureen Betteridge.090725


A VISION for a new arts centre at Haltwhistle has been unveiled by an amateur dramatics group.

Thwist, a group of four artists from the Haltwhistle district, is working on its dream of having a facility in the town for use by local residents and visitors.

The group has already held discussions over under-used space in two unnamed buildings which could be adapted to house the centre.

And it has been costing the development of premises for theatre space, recording studios and art workshops.

Provisional drawings have been prepared of what the buildings in question might look like, by architect Christine Ewart of Haltwhistle architects Scotyne Design Ltd.

But the group has no fixed ideas of what would be in the centre and is keen to receive input from people in western Tynedale.

To this end it has prepared a survey, with £8,000 funding from Leader+ and £2,500 from Tynedale Council.

This is in the process of being sent to 4,000 homes, artists, photographers, craftspeople, schools and village hall committees, asking for feedback on what the centre should incorporate.

The survey, printed by a Hexham firm, has already yielded 40 replies.

Thwist, taken from the word Haltwhistle, came up with the idea of creating a reasonable sized venue after struggling to find places with enough room to rehearse and perform.

It hopes the centre will provide a much-needed facility in the town for both locals and visitors.

Ron Moule, the brains behind Thwist, said: “Tourists do not come to Haltwhistle; they go to the Roman Wall, then they leave.

“This part of Tynedale is haemorrhaging money at a ridiculous rate.”

He pointed out that people attracted to the area were staying for perhaps only one night. They will not stay longer unless there is something to keep them occupied.

“There is frustration that there are no amenities for local people,” explained Ron. “I have been living in Haltwhistle for five years and I am completely bored by the fact of the lack of art facilities.

“We actually talked about where we would be to enjoy art - the Baltic, Theatre Royal, Sunderland Empire. People have got to travel.

“We want to make sure we develop a venue.”

According to Ron, the centre is as much of a concept as a building.

Even if a premises can not be secured, events could be held under the art centre banner at a variety of locations.

Discussions are ongoing with social clubs and other venues to this end.

In keeping with this theme, one facility that has been identified as a necessity is a mobile cinema.

Thwist is also keen that, should it secure premises, this would provide space for two simultaneous art workshops.

Residents who fill in and return a survey form have a chance of winning a cash or art prize.

Looking ahead, once the results of the survey are known, feedback will be considered.

A report will be prepared and a presentation given to a public meeting in June or July.

Funding avenues are already being explored, with a bid to the Big Lottery and Tynedale Council anticipated. Discussions have also been held with Northern Rock.

Thwist welcomes new members as well as volunteers to help work on the project.