Museum gets backing for funding bid

Wednesday, 26 September, 2007

A POPULAR Suffolk museum's bid to raise £5.3million towards a major development programme was today given the backing of one of the county's MPs.

The Museum of East Anglian Life (MEAL) is attempting to secure funding of £1.7 million from the East of England Development Agency (EEDA), which will be used to transform the Stowmarket site into a major cultural and educational centre.

The museum has already submitted a funding bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for £2.9 million and is well on the way to raising the remaining cash.

In a letter to EEDA chairman Richard Ellis, David Ruffley, MP for Stowmarket, Needham Market and Bury St Edmunds, claimed the proposals would be worth an extra £1.5 million a year to the Mid Suffolk economy.

Mr Ruffley said: 'I am delighted to support the museum's development plans which, as well as being ambitious and imaginative, will offer so much to Stowmarket.

'MEAL's site in the centre of town, which is accessible to so many people, will provide something for everyone - the old, the young, families, tourists and, through the social enterprise schemes, socially excluded groups such as learning disabled adults, people with mental illness and the long-term unemployed.

'A redeveloped museum will attract visitors to the town from within and outside of the region. It is estimated that visitor spend will be worth an addition £1.5 million a year to the economy.

'From interactive displays in the barns to art exhibitions in the restored Abbot's Hall, there really will be something for all my constituents.'

If the funding is awarded, the museum's Abbot's Hall complex would provide a signature building aiding the regeneration of Stowmarket, Mr Ruffley said.

Two rooms will be developed to public indemnity standard enabling the museum to stage touring exhibitions from national museums.

The future of a valuable heritage site would be secured and listed buildings which are currently at risk would be preserved.

The HLF's decision on its potential £2.9m grant is expected to be made by December.

The museum is sourcing the remaining funding by way of capital grants from the Abbot's Hall Trust, Suffolk County Council, Mid Suffolk District Council, Stowmarket Town Council, the Esmee Fairbairn Trust and other charitable concerns.