King’s Lynn Festival welcomes proposals for historic Guildhall

St Georges Guildhall in Kings Lynn is the largest and oldest guildhall in England. Picture: Matthew

St Georges Guildhall in Kings Lynn is the largest and oldest guildhall in England. Picture: Matthew Usher - Credit: Matthew Usher

King's Lynn Festival has said it is 'cautiously optimistic' about an anonymous philanthropist's plans to revitalise the Guildhall of St George.

Ivor Rowlands outside the Guildhall. Picture: Chris Bishop

Ivor Rowlands outside the Guildhall. Picture: Chris Bishop - Credit: Archant

The 15th century building housed the King's Lynn Arts Centre until it closed in early 2016. Since then the theatre and galleries that stretch from King Street towards the river have operated on a for hire basis.

West Norfolk council, which leases the Guildhall complex from the National Trust, has now received an approach from a charity created by a local investor, who wishes to remain anonymous, seeking to revitalise the listed buildings and create a gallery of 'national and international significance'.

The building is central to the King's Lynn Festival and the most significant venue during the July arts event and for year-round events.

The first Lynn Festival in 1951 was a celebration of the rescue and restoration of the largest surviving medieval guildhall in England and the oldest theatre in Europe where Shakespeare is reputed to have performed.

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Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother opened the Guildhall in 1951 following its restoration and remained a festival patron until her death.

The King's Lynn Festival board said it welcomed the investor's wish to 'see the buildings contribute in a more meaningful way towards the town's cultural and artistic offer', and the desire to work with Lynn Festival to achieve this.

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In a statement they added: 'The Guildhall is of significant importance to our national cultural heritage not just in terms of its bricks and mortar but more particularly in terms of its use as a venue for a wide variety of arts events including drama and dance, and especially music.

'Over the last 68 years the festival has presented many world-famous artists on the Guildhall stage and we feel this is an ideal opportunity to cement Lynn's position as a cultural centre of not just national, but also international importance, for the future.'

A users group has also welcomed the approach. Ivor Rowlands, of Lynn Art Culture and Heritage (LArCH) said: 'We see this very much in the spirit of those who saved the Guildhall and founded the King's Lynn Arts Centre and Festival in 1951.

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