Plans to create an Arts and Cultural Hub in Wrexham Town Centre took a step forward today, with proposals to develop a detailed design and plan commissioned by Councillors.
Members of the Executive Board voted in favour in progressing the development of an Arts and Cultural Hub in the People’s Market, with the project described as ‘exciting’ by one Councillor.
Lead Member for Communities, Partnerships and Collaboration, Councillor Hugh Jones said: “The People’s Market has been identified as the best site. A feasibility study has been carried out and shows there is support for the vision that we have.
“It demonstrates that the market can accommodate the proposed activities and maintain a market presence which we felt was very important. Both will be mutually sustaining, with the Arts Hub supporting market and market support hub.
“It makes a significant contribution to the daytime and early evening economy, and shifts the balance of Wrexham closing in the early evening. There is comprehensive educational potential, involvement of Glyndwr and Coleg Cambria and provide for arts and cultural students to practise and demonstrate their arts and culture.”
It is hoped that the development will help ‘improve the viability’ of that particular part of Wrexham.
Figures were also provided for the current visitor rate at the Oriel Gallery, with 17,000 having visited in the past 12 months. Cllr Jones said that it is predicted 50,000 will visit the new Arts Hub in the first year, rising then to 100,000.
Last week Wrexham.com reported that work had begun with market traders on examining how the existing market would fit in with the proposed hub. Initial designs of the interior of the hub were released in September 2014, with proposals that the current stalls in the Peoples Market are incorporated into the hub – alongside offices, art spaces and open air spaces.
However Councillor Rodney Skelland voiced concerns from a Task and Finish Group focusing on regenerating the towns markets. At the time it appears that three quarters of revenue was from the Peoples Market, and that was money to be used to help regenerate the other markets.
Cllr Skelland asked how the General and Butchers Markets would be regenerated if the money was no longer there.
Cllr Hugh Jones referred to the Quarterbridge report which called into question the viability of the Peoples Market, saying things had moved on from the Task and Finish Group. Cllr Jones added that to give the Peoples Market a future there has to be some change, and the hub and market would be ‘mutually sustaining’.
Cllr Jones replied “In correction to what you said, that the income from the People’s Market income would disappear, there will be a significant market element in the arts hub so it will not disappear in its entirety. There is an element of the People’s markets tenants that are casual and we are hoping this will strengthen more regular trading.”
The development will result in a reduction of 14 stalls in the People’s Market capacity, however Cllr Jones added that nine stalls in the market are already vacant – with a further nine let on a more flexible basis.
Referring to the current Oriel gallery and specifically how the only sprung flooring in Wrexham had not been used for years, Cllr Skelland added: “How can you guarantee we will get a renewed interest in culture and arts in Wrexham as the Oriel has been a let down over the years?”
Cllr Hugh Jones replied: “There are no guarantees in this life. What we can do is make sure we have the best available expertise.”
A full financial appraisal presentation was also promised, with Cllr Jones adding that ‘the funding is allocated is for future discussion’.
Concerns about the handing over of the hub to a Trust model in the future were also raised, with Councillor Dana Davies querying why a Trust was not on-board during the development of the hub rather than at the end of the creation process.
Cllr Hugh Jones replied: “Trusts per-se don’t set things up, they take on things.”
More detail on this point and others was apparently given in Part 2, which was closed off to the media and public.
What are your thoughts on the proposed Arts and Cultural Hub? You can take part in the ongoing debate on the Wrexham.com Forums here…
Pictured – Artists Impression of the Arts and Cultural Hub