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Village coming to terms with fire

PUBLISHED: 19:30 28 April 2004 | UPDATED: 04:49 02 March 2010

DEVASTATED Bildeston residents are still reeling today from the village hall fire that has ripped through the heart of the community.

Local events, the lifeblood of the close-knit village, and weddings must now be cancelled and desperate measures taken to return to some normality.

DEVASTATED Bildeston residents are still reeling today from the village hall fire that has ripped through the heart of the community.

Local events, the lifeblood of the close-knit village, and weddings must now be cancelled and desperate measures taken to return to some normality.

The toddler group is appealing for toys after their play equipment was destroyed in the blaze, which is believed to have been started by arsonists.

Dozens of villagers crowded round and watched in horror as firefighters tackled the flames for three hours early yesterday.

Many were too shocked to speak.

The £320,000 hall was the heartbeat of the close-knit community and the youngsters, aged between two and four, are just some of the villagers affected by the blaze.

Their important pre-school education is now disrupted and the staff are urgently trying to find toys amid the tragedy.

Other events, including the annual pantomime and wedding receptions, have also been scrapped.

Loretta Greenacre, leader of the playgroup, said: "I feel a bit gutted because I think we have lost everything.

"All the staff are a bit shocked at the moment.

"We are lucky the Baptist church have offered us the use of the hall so we are frantically building up the supply of toys and arts and crafts equipment.

"We will initially be looking for people to help us out as there is a lot involved in moving premises, but we hope we will be operating next week."

The fire has not damaged the fighting spirit of the village however, with many offering to help clear up the mess.

Kevin Taylor, chairman of the Chamberlin Hall, has the unenviable task of telling devastated brides and grooms-to-be they cannot have their wedding reception at the village hall.

Many, who are looking forward to their special day in May and June, will not find a suitable venue in time.

"I have to contact everybody who has the hall booked," said Mr Taylor.

"I don't know if they are going to able to find another venue this late. I feel sick."

Helping to sift through the debris, Adrian Chenery, vice-chairman of the hall, said: "Everything is severely damaged and we have lost a lot of personal things like pantomime costumes and props, and the stage is badly damaged."

The idea the fire was started deliberately has shocked this tightly woven village.

Mr Taylor said: "Words do not describe what I think about that. We have worked so hard to run this hall and I have enjoyed it. If arsonists have taken this away from us then they need to be locked up.

"We don't need these people as part of this community."

N Have you had an event cancelled because of the fire? Ring The Evening Star news desk on 01473 324789, write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, email: eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk


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