Parts of Haverhill Arts Centre have undergone a ‘fantastic’ transformation thanks to a partnership between its management team and University Campus Suffolk (UCS).
The outdated decor and furnishings of the Bistro and the Studio (the venue for town council meetings) have been modernised and uplifted using designs created by Ashley Lloyd, a first year BA (Hons) Applied Interior Design student at the UCS in Bury St Edmunds.
On top of this, the lighting has been upgraded in the main auditorium, where work is also in progress to modernise the sound system, while the bar is due to be refurbished and redecorated later this year in phase two of the project.
A few months ago the town council approached the university with a view to seeing if some of its interior design students would like to get involved in a project to renovate the arts centre.
The approach led to a six week project being set up for first year students on the course, at the end of which 15 students presented their designs to arts centre staff.
Ashley’s design, the last one of the 15 to be presented, was chosen.
Gary Wilson, the arts centre operations manager,said: “We were literally gobsmacked at what had been presented to us.
“We came away from that afternoon completely overwhelmed by what had been presented to us by the 15 students.
“What we have here is a fantastic space for the Haverhill Arts Centre and the people of Haverhill itself.
“I think Ashley has been very sympathetic to the building itself. We had 15 disparate types of presentations, we had all different types.
“One of the reasons we really appreciate the work Ashley has done is that she has been able to bring a modern element to it but harking back to what it was back in Victorian times.
“We live in the 21st century but we really appreciate the journey and what we have come to.
“I think this took fresh eyes to see and we are absolutely chuffed to bits.”
Mr Wilson thanked Ashley, the course’s director, Sue Winslett and lecturer Jono Mawford, for their help in getting the project to where it is now.
Mr Mawford explained that the three-year course is more about giving students the chance to develop practical skills by working with clients and not just learning the theories of interior design.
He said: “The main thrust is that you can set the students’ hypothetical projects but this is a real job where they can come in and look at the job and get a real sense of the space and have a proper client brief and present to the client at the end and that’s going to increase their confidence and their skills.
“The transformation (of the interior) on a fairly tight budget has been huge.”
The studio room has been repainted - no longer the bright yellow walls - and had a projector screen put on the wall and fixed seating installed for the public to use.
As part of the overall project the roof will also be pigeon proofed and lightning strips installed.
Nick Keeble, the town council’s leisure manager, said: “We’ve been talking about doing something, especially with this (Bistro) space ever since the first chair started to break about two-and-a-half years ago.
“We thought everything is getting a bit old and tired in here.
“Other things started to fall apart and break in the building as well, so we took the opportunity to try and get quite a lot of things done at once.
“We’ve achieved quite a lot. We’ve not achieved everything we wanted to in the time frame but we’ve done quite a lot.”