Arts centre may bear DJ's name

THE legacy of late DJ John Peel could form an integral part of a proposal to convert a disused building in Stowmarket into a vibrant arts venue.

Elliot Furniss

THE legacy of late DJ John Peel could form an integral part of a proposal to convert a disused building in Stowmarket into a vibrant arts venue.

The broadcasting legend lived near the town for many years before his death in 2004 and now plans are afoot that could see his name attached to a new creativity centre planned for the empty Corn Exchange.

The building was constructed in 1836 and used for a variety of purposes but in recent years has fallen into disuse and disrepair.

Now a steering group, led by officers from Mid Suffolk District Council, has been set up to see if the Church Walk site can be transformed.

A series of meetings have already been held between the group and members of Mr Peel's family and the signs look good that a link can be forged.

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Mr Peel's widow, Sheila Ravenscroft, visited the Corn Exchange recently and said not using the building was “a crime” and that she hoped that in some way her late husband could be associated with the site.

Mrs Ravenscroft said: “I have been to a few meetings. Hopefully it would be a venue that anybody of any age would feel that they could use for whatever purpose.

“It's got all this history and how sad to have the doors closed.”

She said Stowmarket was becoming an “increasingly busy place” and with a large number of new houses already built and more on the way, the town needed to up the number of arts venues open to local talent.

She said: “John used to go to Colchester and Norwich Arts Centres. It's not going to be totally about John - it's going to be about Stowmarket and a centre for everybody to use.

“There's many ideas floating around; most of them haven't come from me.”

One possibility is that part or all of the complex could bear his name while there is also an exciting plan to create a unique digital archive of his work that would be accessed through computers based at the centre.

Mrs Ravenscroft added: “This is what arts centres do in other towns and cities - they play a huge role and it would be really good if Stowmarket had one.”

A three-stage plan to transform the site would cost a predicted �1million and the link with Mr Peel could help secure essential funds and some national recognition for the project.

In a document presented to Stowmarket Town Council at a meeting last month, public services manager Daniel Harvey said there was “growing enthusiasm” among members of the project team regarding the possible association with Mr Peel's legacy.

He said: “Clearly this is a major project which is going to take time to develop. A lot of consultation has already taken place and there is a lot of support for what is planned.”

nJohn Peel was the longest serving DJ on BBC Radio 1, broadcasting regularly from 1967 until his death in 2004.

nHe started his radio career in America and worked as a Beatles correspondent for a Dallas station at the height of “Beatlemania”.

nAfter returning to the UK in 1967, he appeared on Radio London before joining the line-up of DJs for the launch of Radio 1.

nHe was well-known for his eclectic music tastes, from punk to death metal and indie rock to dance music.

nAlso a presenter for Top of the Pops, he went on to find a new audience by hosting the popular Home Truths on BBC Radio 4.

nIn 2002 he was awarded the OBE for services to British music and came 43rd in a BBC poll to find the 100 Greatest Britons.

nThe Glastonbury Festival's New Bands Tent was renamed the John Peel Stage in his honour.