Tunbridge Wells' New Cultural & Learning Hub
With the architects’ plans finalised and the funding largely in place, the next stage in the development of Tunbridge Wells’ Cultural & Learning Hub involves the imminent appointment of contractors who will begin the all-important work of turning ideas into bricks and mortar next January.
The £13.3 million project has come a long way since its launch in 2013. At a recent reception William Benson, Chief Executive of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, paid tribute to the “grit, determination and passion” of everyone concerned, including the Borough and Kent County Councils which have worked tirelessly together. Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund have together pledged funding of more than £5 million to add to the £7 million already raised, with a £1 million shortfall to be secured by the summer 2021 completion date.
One key milestone was the decision earlier this year to name the centre in commemoration of Amelia Scott, the doughty women’s suffrage campaigner, social reformer, town councillor and public library champion who lived out her life in Tunbridge Wells.
According to plans drawn up by architects Purcell and interpretational designers Metaphor, the new hub will incorporate both the refreshed 1930s-built museum, art gallery and library and the adjacent adult education and support centres, with all the services under one roof for the first time.
A shared open space
Once complete, customers can move easily between different spaces dedicated to the likes of interactive learning, reading, researching, the museum collections and tourist/community support. They can also view works created by local artists, network and hold business meetings, learn about how the residents of Tunbridge Wells and the High Weald lived over the centuries and, above all, enjoy the shared open space and cafe at the heart of the building.
According to Councillor Jane March, the development will “transform museum and cultural services”, explaining that all the disparate functions and their teams will be cross linked and trained, ready for opening in 2021, to enable a fully integrated offering of knowledge and expertise.
William Benson added that more extensive archive and research facilities are being put in place specifically in response to detailed research among users. He is confident that the hub will contribute to the growth and development of Tunbridge Wells as a creative place to live and work, alongside Calverley Square and other developments taking place within the town.
“People’s habits are changing – they don’t want just to shop, they want to have an experience. We’re ensuring that Tunbridge Wells’ culture, leisure and arts can be at the centre of this experience, attracting visitors and boosting our regional and national profile,” said William.