Viva 'never been busier' as new venue takes shape

Viva Arts and Community Group Soham at Spencer Mill home

Viva arts and community group in Soham said it has "never been busier" due to growing demand after its redevelopment project of Spencer Mill was completed. - Credit: Viva/Nicky Still Photography/Mike Rouse

A group which transformed a derelict mill into an arts and community venue admits it has “never been busier” in its bid to succeed. 

Over £2 million of funding has gone into refurbishing and redeveloping Spencer Mill in Soham, in order to provide a long-term venue for Viva arts and community group. 

“It was a derelict mill and that stood empty for decades,” Rachael Polsom, Viva’s administrator, said. 

“But the refurbishment has finished and the building is now up and running, so we are in our first season of entertainment.” 

The refurbishment, completed last August, has enabled Viva to provide a new theatre space that can also be converted into a cinema. 

Inside Spencer Mill, Soham

Inside the refurbished Spencer Mill, Soham, the home of Viva arts and community group. - Credit: Nicky Still Photography

Inside Spencer Mill, Soham

Inside the refurbished Spencer Mill, Soham, the home of Viva arts and community group. - Credit: Nicky Still Photography

As well as restoring the building’s original brickwork and other original features, they have also added a wall thanking those who have contributed to the project. 

“We had hundreds of letters of support and it gives a home to Viva, but an asset for the town as they can hold their own events,” said Ms Polsom. 

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“We hope people will be able to access culture and heritage more easily as it will be on their doorstep and will not involve a bus or train ride into the bigger towns.” 

Inside Spencer Mill, Soham

Inside the refurbished Spencer Mill, Soham, the home of Viva arts and community group. - Credit: Nicky Still Photography

Inside Spencer Mill, Soham

Inside the refurbished Spencer Mill, Soham, the home of Viva arts and community group. - Credit: Nicky Still Photography

Viva is preparing to open its theatre offering with their ‘We Will Rock You’ show next month, while arranging cinema screenings in and around live performances. 

Viva, which has been running since 1997, has also received interest from other social groups wanting to use its space. 

“Other groups are already wanting to use the facilities, such as parent and baby groups,” Ms Polsom said. 

Viva members outside Spencer Mill, Soham

Viva members turned out in force after it secured funding to redevelop Spencer Mill in Soham. - Credit: Mike Rouse

“We have a cinema programme for over 60s once a month a children’s theatre and a youth theatre club for children as young as four-years-old. 

“It’s already going well; we have never been busier.” 

Comedy nights and plays are just other events scheduled later this year, while they plan to stage a Henri Matisse art exhibition.   

A vision of Spencer Mill, Soham after redevelopment

A vision of what Spencer Mill would look like after redevelopment. - Credit: Viva

Inside Spencer Mill, Soham

Inside the refurbished Spencer Mill, Soham, the home of Viva arts and community group. - Credit: Nicky Still Photography

It has been conditionally granted £325,000 from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, which could go towards creating a business hub as part of its long-term plans. 

Viva aims to attract members from as young as four to over 80-years-old, and believes it will satisfy the needs of different people. 

“We hope local people will be able to access culture and heritage more easily as it will be on their doorstep,” Ms Polsom said. 

Inside Spencer Mill, Soham

Inside the refurbished Spencer Mill, Soham, the home of Viva arts and community group. - Credit: Nicky Still Photography

“We hope that we can make a success of the venue.” 

For more information on Viva and upcoming events, call 01353 722228 or visit: https://www.viva-group.org.uk/.