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Finishing touches falling into place as Market Cross Community of Creatives, in Bury St Edmunds, prepares to open

A vision for an historic Bury St Edmunds building years in the making is about to come to fruition.

The Market Cross will re-open on May 17 after six years standing empty.

New life is being breathed into the 17th century building thanks to the Market Cross Community of Creatives, which aims to build a community among local creative people and provide a platform for artists.

Market Cross Community of Creatives prepare for opening on May 17..PICTURED: James Stringer ....Picture: Mecha Morton .. (46824742)
Market Cross Community of Creatives prepare for opening on May 17..PICTURED: James Stringer ....Picture: Mecha Morton .. (46824742)

The Grade I-listed venue, which had stood empty since Smiths Row gallery’s departure in 2015, is set to host dancing, music, art, fitness and performances.

It is the brainchild of James Stringer, of Phoenix Pilates and Dance, and dance partner and accredited health and wellness coach Zoe Noble.

Former builder James, who attended Thurston Upper School, caught the dancing bug eight years ago and spent years travelling the world enjoying salsa and bachata events.

The father-of-three will now lead his own sessions from the light and airy Market Cross, alongside a host of other like-minded instructors and artists.

May 17’s opening will mark the fruition of an idea James, keen to share his passion for dancing with others and reinvigorate one of the town’s historic buildings, started forming three years ago.

Now, the flexible space at the Market Cross has been equipped with movable dance mirrors, a music system, tables, chairs and easels, while digital and baby grand pianos, stage area and bar will arrive in the coming days.

James said: “Zoe and I share a passion for music and dancing but also for promoting wellness within the community.

“There is so much more to health than just the physical. The sense of wellbeing that comes from creative pursuits such as dancing, singing and art cannot by understated, not to mention the sense of community and belonging that goes hand in hand.

“Dancing has given us so much over the years. We wanted to offer a space for others to experience the same.

“To us, this is so much more than a venue to hire. Our vision is to create a real sense of community among local creatives and serve as a platform for local artists. It doesn’t matter if you are a professional or just starting out, there is a place for everyone here.”

Life drawing, salsa, pilates, yoga, watercolour, bachata, bellydance, circus skills and latin dance classes are just some of those already lined up, while the venue has a full premises licence allowing it to serve alcohol during social events.

James, who lives in the town centre, will manage the Market Cross alongside his daughter Ellamay Stringer.

He has been keen to support local businesses throughout, with the bar set to be stocked with Adnam’s products, the bar itself made by A&J Joinery of Cockfield, and easels supplied by Denny’s, for example.

Meanwhile, James hopes the walls will be adorned with bi-monthly exhibitions by local artists and students.

The current Market Cross was built in the 17th century and has had a range of uses, including as a town hall, clothier’s hall and badminton court.

In 1725, the first floor of the Market Cross became Bury’s first permanent theatre. After the Theatre Royal opened in 1819, the Market Cross changed use several times before becoming an art gallery in 1972.

Long-term, James fosters hopes of taking over the ground floor of the building.

“Wouldn’t that be just wonderful?” he says with a grin.

For more information, go to www.facebook.com/themarketcrosscommunityofcreatives

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