Viva Soham hopes to transform historic, disused saw mill into district's only arts and community centre - but there's a £180,000 shortfall

PUBLISHED: 16:11 26 January 2018 | UPDATED: 16:11 26 January 2018

Viva Arts and Community Group rehearsing their March production of Hairspray. They are pictured with director Dan Schumann. PHOTO: Mike Rouse.

Viva Arts and Community Group rehearsing their March production of Hairspray. They are pictured with director Dan Schumann. PHOTO: Mike Rouse.

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Soham charity Viva hopes to transform a historic, disused mill into the district's only arts and community centre and start - but there's a £180,000 funding gap.

This is the current mill building in SohamThis is the current mill building in Soham

Having already raised £420,000 - £220,000 from a Lottery Grant, a further £150,000 secured to buy the mill and £50,000 from within Viva – the community group is £180,000 away from the £600,000 total needed for redevelopment and purchase.

Viva director Dan Schumann said: “It is an amazing start and transforms the project from a dream into something we can absolutely deliver.

“It’s the best start any community capital project could wish for.”

East Cambridgeshire District Council have offered their support for the project and the Leader of the Council, Charles Roberts, said: “We support this exciting endeavour to build a new community and arts facility in Soham.

An artist's impression of what Viva could develop the mill into for around £400,000.An artist's impression of what Viva could develop the mill into for around £400,000.

“The council is committed to ensuring that East Cambs continues to be a fantastic place to live, work and visit.

“This facility plays a key role in enabling the council to make good on its promise to the community and is a much-needed facility for the growing population of Soham.

“The council is currently considering adding this community centre to its Community Infrastructure Levy Regulation 123 List so that it can benefit from contributions raised from new development in the district.”

Viva has launched a campaign to raise the funds needed and Mr Schumann said: “Our vision is to create a home for Viva forevermore and a base for all of our activities, performances and projects; but also, to create an arts and community centre for Soham, which would be the only facility of its kind in our whole district.

“The building would host a range of community and arts groups and activities and would be available for the whole community.

“The facility will be used by young and old with a wide range of activities on offer.

“The facility will also host school holiday activity clubs, parties and celebrations, film nights, quiz nights and regular whole-community social events.”

Viva has also set up an online poll to gain support for the project, with 2,300 local residents having voted their support already.

Mr Schumann added: “This is an overwhelming response and is equivalent to two in every 10 Soham residents or one in every two households voting to support our vision.”

“I really believe that, if we all pull together and use all of our resources and contacts (and thanks to the incredible start the lottery has given us and the boost we have been given by gaining the District Council’s support), we can do this.”

As well as donations towards the project Viva is also looking for people who could volunteer their time, skills, materials, equipment or professional services.

Email vivayouth@hotmail.co.uk or call 01353 722228 if you can help.

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