The external works to the Post Office have all been completed now, the building is in a better condition, all the external repairs have been ticked off the to do list! We’ve received a lovely response back from the community regarding the works and all those involved were pleased with the result. But we would often get asked from curious members of the public, what happens next and what is the building going to become?
Behind the scenes we were working with Johnny Messum and Laurence Edwards to draw up plans but weren’t ready to make a public announcement – but we are ready now!
Drum roll please…the Post Office is going to become a visual arts space, with working studio for Laurence Edwards, in addition to spaces for a revolving residency of international, national, and regional artists, exhibition spaces and screening room as well and as a café/ restaurant. The arts hub (it has no official name yet) will be run by Messums who have art centres in London, Harrogate and Wiltshire and Lowestoft will be managed by Messums East. The aim is to transform the building into a national attraction, that will welcome visitors locally and nationally. By having a visual arts space in the Town Centre this will help drive footfall into the area and help distil a sense of community pride and help raise the profile of the town.
Not only will the building become an arts space, but Laurence will also be working to create a large-scale bronze landmark sculpture for Lowestoft (we are currently looking at locations) casting it at his foundry in East Suffolk, he will work with the community to design the sculpture from the new studio at the Post Office. Laurence Edwards began his career in Lowestoft, as a student at the former Lowestoft College and has an international reputation for large scale sculptures, his recent works include the 26ft bronze sculpture named Yoxman which stands next to the A12 in Yoxford, Suffolk.
Bringing the Post Office back into use as a creative space supports so much what the Council, partners and stakeholders are trying to achieve. Arts and culture enable wonderful things to happen, and the Post Office will be no exemption, communities and young people will have access to great art to inspire them and it will bring a new creative purpose to the Town Centre, creating an experience for visitors.
We undertook a study about two years ago and it showed that Lowestoft had an emerging creative sector, but it needed to be nurtured for it to really flourish, the study recommended a virtual and physical hub, and it’s amazing that we’ve are now able to deliver both for the creative community, that there will be a place to go, to work from, show work and network and collaborate. The Post Office also meets the ambitions of the first ever Lowestoft cultural strategy, not only bringing redundant heritage buildings back into use but encouraging cultural entrepreneurship. We have estimated that there are over 700 businesses in East Suffolk working in the creative industries and its one of the fastest growing UK sectors and for Lowestoft the sector is worth nearly £28million, and much more if we factor in the indirect benefits of cultural tourism and the benefit on the wider economy and on local communities. Lowestoft has been on quite a journey with culture, it’s grasped the opportunity with both hands, the town has more cultural opportunities than ever before, amazing venues and festivals, big and small!
As with any publicly funded project, there is a big shout out to the funders, Historic England, East Suffolk Council and Towns Fund, who supports our ambitions and who have been truly supportive. The Post Office is one of the five projects to receive an allocation of the £24.9million that was secured for Lowestoft last year and is a flagship project in the London Road Heritage Action Zone.
So now we have gone public, the next question on people’s lips will be, when will the Post Office be open? While there were repairs to the outside of the building last year, there needs to be repairs done inside. Our aim is for the Post Office to be open by end of 2024, the next job on the to do list is to get planning approval and listed building consent, which we will be submitting in the coming weeks and then we need to tender for the main contractor and expect the works to take a year to complete, as they say slow and steady wins the race!
To find out more about the restoration works that have been undertaken at the Post Office please click here