Education centre takes shape

A MAJOR redevelopment of an important community resource centre has moved into its second phase and is on course to provide a new “living history” for an evolving part of the town centre.

A MAJOR redevelopment of an important community resource centre has moved into its second phase and is on course to provide a new “living history” for an evolving part of the town centre.

The Co-op Education Centre in Fore Street is undergoing a thorough refurbishment, which has seen the interior stripped and extra meeting rooms created.

The work began in October last year and has already uncovered some impressive Georgian features in the Grade II listed building.

Pam Walker, education officer for the East of England Co-operative Society, said: “It's a wonderful old building. We've uncovered some lovely features. In places it has gone right back to the Georgian panelling.”

The education centre is used as a meeting place for a range of local groups, from a geranium society to several choirs.

The redevelopment project is aimed at making the centre available to more people by creating new rooms, a new back entrance and a coffee lounge and by improving disability access.

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The project has now entered its second phase and a summer completion is expected.

Ms Walker said: “The building is the centre for the education department for the society. We're not in this to make money, we're in this as a community venue. It will become an improved resource.

“We are now in the centre of the regeneration area so hopefully we'll be able to serve a much wider group.”

The project is the first wholesale redevelopment of the building in 40 years - a fact highlighted by the discovery of papers from the 1960s, and some from 1945, inside the walls.

One of the developments which has most excited workers at the centre is the prospect of creating a display of Co-op memorabilia and artefacts throughout the newly redeveloped building.

Some of the items have previously been stored in the building but there are now plans to put them on display to celebrate the society's extensive history.

The co-op has an original collection of books dating back to its beginnings in the 1860s, plus milk tokens from the area's earliest co-operatives as well as old dolls, calendars, shoes and ration books.

Ms Walker said: “We're hoping that we'll be able to display those all around the collection.

“We've got things from every society that has merged into Ipswich and Norwich and now The East of England Society. Every village and town had its own cooperative.

“We're hoping to look at a Heritage Lottery Fund bid to help us display our artefacts and history around the centre. We're hoping to have a living history.”

Weblink: www.eastofengland.coop