What a difference a year makes –
Kettering’s cultural quarter takes shape
October 2021: Plans for a refurbished gallery and improved library in Kettering’s town centre next to the Manor House Museum are picking up pace this month – with builders laying steel foundations and new visualisation unveiled.
It was back in August 2020hat funding was first approved for this project, with South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) awarding £3million from the Government’s Getting Building Fund (GBF) to redevelop the town’s Alfred East Art Gallery and Library which sit adjacent to the Manor House Museum.
Since then, North Northamptonshire Council have provided an additional £1million of match funding and construction is due to finish next Spring with the building set to reopen shortly after.
Hilary Chipping, SEMLEP Chief Executive, said: “In ‘normal’ times this would have been a challenging project, so to be moving forwards so quickly despite a pandemic is nothing short of exceptional. The Getting Building Fund came with tight timescales and was specifically for infrastructure projects that could be delivered quickly and which would boost economic growth, fuel local recovery and create jobs.
“This project fitted the criteria and is focused on creating a creative and cultural anchor for North Northamptonshire, one that will pay homage to the buildings’ historical characters while also complementing other cultural programmes across the town. These buildings are already significant historical assets so what we are doing now is developing them to create an even more attractive and exciting town centre and one that will act as a catalyst for further investment.”
Included in the new development is a brand-new Business and IP Centre, here entrepreneurs and innovators will get advice and support; from that first spark of inspiration right through to successfully launching and growing a business.
Cllr Helen Howell, North Northamptonshire Council’s Deputy Leader and executive member for Sport, Leisure, Culture and Tourism, added: “We are now one year on, but when this project started we were just coming out of the first lockdown so it was a very challenging start. There have since been two more lockdowns and prices across the market – everything from timber and bricks to steel and concrete – have soared in cost. Despite this, the project is now really taking shape. As the building work picks up pace we are now turning our attention to the opening, with exciting plans afoot.”
Known throughout the development process as GLaM, this trio of cultural heritage assets – situated within the town centre – will include a two-storey contemporary extension connecting the Gallery and Library that will include a glass façade first-floor events space, with views across Manor House Gardens, to the Museum.
Cllr Jason Smithers, Leader of North Northamptonshire Council, added: “GLaM is a flagship project for North Northamptonshire and I’m delighted that work is progressing well despite the challenges we have faced. This has been made possible with all of our partners coming together to deliver this culturally significant scheme in the heart of Kettering with some very dedicated individuals committed to creating a wonderful asset for the town and wider area.”
OUR ONE YEAR TIMELINE
October 2020: The £3million Getting Building Fund is approved by SEMLEP, marking the start of this project.
Kettering based architectural specialist GSS Architecture is commissioned – a company founded by John Alfred Gotch who designed Kettering’s original Art Gallery in 1913. Surveys detect a roosting bat, although further surveys ensure that a bat license is granted.
November 2020: An in-demand specialist in culture capital projects is successfully recruited to lead the development.
January 2021: Planning and listed building consent is granted.
February 2021: The detailed design stage 4 commences.
May 2021: The gallery collection decant starts – 938 pieces of art are condition checked, packed, and moved out of the building into a specialist, environmentally controlled, unit. (A new storage area is set to be developed that will enable the gallery to attract, store and exhibit more pieces of national and international repute.)
The library temporarily closes (but reopens in August).
June 2021: Enabling work starts on site and the detailed architectural designs are finished and approved.
August 2021: Landscape designs are submitted, including plans for a sensory garden, improved access to the new extension, bench seating and bin stores. The library reopens.
September 2021: Groundworks are completed and concrete starts to be poured. Plans for the official opening take shape, with the 2022 programme in the planning and branding concepts and discussions underway. The programme is expected to include new exhibitions, film nights, children’s events and much more.