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Stowmarket: Tour round £5m The Mix youth centre reveals wealth of facilities

PUBLISHED: 19:00 13 March 2014

Site visit of The Mix £5million youth centre in Stowmarket.

Site visit of The Mix £5million youth centre in Stowmarket.

Youngsters have been able to get a first look at a new £5million youth centre, dedicated to providing world-class facilities for 11-19 year-olds.

Site visit of The Mix £5million youth centre in Stowmarket. Site visit of The Mix £5million youth centre in Stowmarket.

Featuring a recording studio, cafe, media suite, art studio and performance hall, The Mix, in Stowmarket, offers services and equipment like no other centre in Suffolk, according to its executive manager Leah Kurta.

The 28-year-old says the centre will act as a voice for youngsters while at the same time championing their aspirations.

“It’s for them to have their own place; it’s here to provide some support and structure for what they can do but ultimately it’s about having world-class facilities and to recognise what they do and want to do in the future,” she said.

Suffolk County Council, which oversaw the construction of The Mix, has allocated a five-year grant for the centre which was built using a multi-million pound Government grant.

Site visit of The Mix £5million youth centre in Stowmarket. Pictured is executive manager Leah Kurta. Site visit of The Mix £5million youth centre in Stowmarket. Pictured is executive manager Leah Kurta.

But The Mix, which is also for adults up to 25 with additional needs, will need a “base level” of funding after the grant finishes of £250,000 a year.

Miss Kurta said: “We have got a five-year grant from the council until 2018 but it does not cover all overheads so even from year one we have to raise rents. The facilities need to generate funds to sustain themselves – they do not need to make a profit but long-term they need to generate income.”

Already the centre is offering companies the use of its extensive facilities and is considering hosting concerts within its hall which has capacity for 150 standing and more than 60 seated.

Centre membership will start next month in an effort to boost income with The Mix offering a year’s entry for £52 for youngsters.

The rear of the complex features a YMCA-led youth shelter which will offer six bedrooms and two “crashpads” for vulnerable 16 to 18-year-olds.

Based opposite the Regal Theatre, the centre’s officers who are responsible for the day-to-day running of the facility are rolling out its opening across the year.

Work is still to be done to the front of the building and finishing touches to the interior.

Upon entering the building visitors can quickly become lost in the Alice in Wonderland-inspired layout.

A brightly-lit central corridor quickly splits off with different rooms dotted around the centre. Computers offer youngsters and staff advanced software to channel their imaginations.

The Mix’s board of trustees and a youth panel – made up of youngsters from the centre – will help lead the centre.

Oliver Chidwick, 17, from Needham Market, is part of the board and panel.

He said: “It’s a great opportunity for young people – it provides a safe place and world-class facilities.

“It’s a place for young people’s voices to be heard and to make it what they want it to be.”

Officers are working to build on the centre’s links with other organisations in the town, including the Museum of East Anglian Life and the John Peel Centre for Creative Arts.

Advice services will also offer support to the centre’s members. The charity, The Matthew Project, has already signed up to providing information to youngsters on drugs and alcohol.

The centre was originally due to be completed in March 2013 but was dealt a major blow in 2012 when the Victorian property at the front of the centre, originally earmarked to be refurbished, had structural defects and could not be repaired. Permission to demolish the building had to be obtained from the Government as it was in a conservation area.

The Mix is currently offering creative activity sessions between 4-8pm three days a week.

To find out more about The Mix, go to www.themixstowmarket.com

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