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Foxlowe Arts Centre purchase signed and sealed

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: September 03, 2014

By Belinda Hargreaves

  • Foxlowe volunteer Mike Couzens, centre manager Ian Wilson, chef Angela Buckley, chairman of the Foxlowe Arts Centre Trust Peter Kent-Bagguley, volunteer kitchen assistant Pam Deighton and volunteer Cliff Deighton.

  • Looking to the future of the now community-owned Foxlowe Arts Centre in Leek. From the left: Mike Couzens (who keeps the bees at the Foxlowe Arts Centre), centre manager Ian Wilson, chef Angela Buckley, chairman of the Foxlowe Arts Centre Trust Peter Kent-Bagguley, volunteer kitchen assistant Pam Deighton, and volunteer Cliff Deighton who looks after maintenance at the arts centre.

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The trustees of the Foxlowe Arts Centre in Leek are celebrating after finally taking ownership of the Georgian building.

The community-led project opened in the Grade II-listed building three years ago, after organisers took out a lease on the site.

The venue has since thrived with the help and support of volunteers and financial backing from individuals and organisations.

Now the trustees have taken out a private mortgage for £1 million with the former owner of the building, which was originally believed to have been valued at around £600,000.

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Chairman of the Foxlowe Arts Centre Trust Peter Kent-Bagguley told the Post & Times: "This is a major milestone for the Foxlowe Arts Centre, and is a vindication of the faith the trustees had originally in Autumn 2011, on the basis of some 260 pledgers and a donation of £2,000."

Some of the money to buy the building has come from The Parkside Trust, originally set up to bring a theatre to Leek. Leek Town Council has also voted to give the centre £75,000 over three years.

Mr Kent-Bagguley said: "We have been fortunate as we have been able to put down a 20 per cent deposit because of the support and substantial donation of £185,000 from the Parkside Trust, which has been used towards the £205,000 deposit.

"And then we have had four anonymous people who have donated sums which make it to the £205,000."

The trust will be paying £7,115 a month needed to keep up with the mortgage repayments instead of the £4,166 it has been paying monthly in rent.

Mr Kent-Bagguley added: "We are going to be able to do this because of the substantial support from the community, not just from donations and volunteer work, but the people who use the centre through the surplus made from the café.

"We also have the significant three-year grant support from Leek Town Council – the monthly mortgage repayment will be made by this combined effort.

"Having embarked on the purchase and having completed almost three years of operations, we have developed considerable accreditation as a responsible and sustainable organisation."

"We have already initiated the preliminary scoping for significant grant applications for the further development of the Foxlowe Arts Centre."

A total of 285 people have volunteered their time over the last three years to get the Foxlowe Arts Centre as it is today.

Mr Kent-Bagguley said: "Three cheers from the trustees for the huge support of all the volunteers, donors and customers."

Leek Town councillor John Fisher said: "This is very good news for our town because the Foxlowe is now a very important element in attracting visitors, and being there for local people in so many different ways. I am so glad that Leek Town Council has been able to provide financial assistance, which has been essential in achieving the purchase."

Foxlowe Arts Centre patron Sybil Ralphs, leader of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, said: "If any venture deserves to succeed, it is this one. It is a prime example of what a group of volunteers can achieve with a mixture of sheer hard work, determination, vision and courage."

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