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Historic hall under threat of closure over lack of funds

PUBLISHED: 11:45 13 December 2019

Simon Weeks is appealing for more people to invest and make use of the hall Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Simon Weeks is appealing for more people to invest and make use of the hall Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

A public hall in Halesworth is under threat of closure – as “sufficient and sustainable revenue” to maintain its running costs have dried up.

Rifle Hall in Halesworth will have to close if funding and support isn't found soon.
Trustees Barbara Warren and Simon Weeks
 Picture: SONYA DUNCANRifle Hall in Halesworth will have to close if funding and support isn't found soon. Trustees Barbara Warren and Simon Weeks Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Rifle Hall, in London Road, will have to close at the end of March unless extra funding can be generated.

Trustee Simon Weeks said: "The gap it would leave in Halesworth would be significant.

"It's been at the centre of the life of the town for decades.

"It's the only public hall in Halesworth and has been a place where people have voted and hosted major exhibitions.
"People remember it from their youth - it holds a place of affection in many hearts."

Rifle Hall in Halesworth will have to close if funding and support isn't found soon, says trustee Simon Weeks Picture: SONYA DUNCANRifle Hall in Halesworth will have to close if funding and support isn't found soon, says trustee Simon Weeks Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Rifle Hall dates back to its origins as a theatre in 1792 before it was converted into an infantry drill hall 70 years later.

The building was named 'Rifle Hall' in memory of Commanding Officer Andrew Johnston.

It was owned by Waveney District Council until 2012, when it was transferred to the Rifle Hall Trust.

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Despite the trust's best efforts to improve the listed building, including refurbishing the kitchen and replacing the floor, income has fell due to a decrease in bookings.

It has now been announced that trustees have agreed to close Rifle Hall at the end of the financial year - on March 31, 2020.

Mr Weeks said the closure will go ahead "unless ways can be found to secure sufficient and sustainable revenue to cover the hall's running costs going forward".

He added: "Bookings at the hall, by both regular and occasional users, have been falling steadily.
"The projections for the next financial year show that income will not be sufficient to cover running costs.

"It's a question of just getting people to use the hall more. We have tried to reduce running costs, but if people don't use the hall then it cannot stay open.

"We've approached the town council for support, even if it's only on a temporary basis, and we've applied for lottery funding.

"We have had some interest, but it's far too early to say if it will remain open."

Mr Weeks said he and his fellow trustees are appealing for the community to make use of the hall before its planned closing date and to offer suggestions to generate income.

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