School’s bid for St Mary-in-the-Castle approved

THE FUTURE of iconic venue St Mary-in-the-Castle looks to have been secured after Buckswood School’s bid to take on the lease was successful.

Borough councillors voted unanimously in favour of the Guestling private school taking on the lease of the building in Pelham Place, at a meeting of the cabinet on Monday (December 3).

Leader of Hastings Borough Council, Jeremy Birch, said: “I think we have got something here that is a permanent future for St Mary-in-the-Castle.

“We want an organisation that can bring in quality performers who maybe have not come to Hastings in the past.”

The school aims to establish St Mary-in-the-Castle as a cultural destination for the south east, but also as a community asset with a wide range of uses.

Buckswood School is currently in talks with the Charity Commission with regards to setting up St Mary-in-the-Castle Charitable Trust, which would become the new tenant, and would be funded and supported by the school.

The trust will be made up of 12 trustees, each with their own portfolio, including arts and culture, education and youth, business development, and communities.

Councillor Judy Rogers will be the council’s representative on the trust.

Cllr Birch said: “On the charitable trust there will be many prominent figures who will bring their own expertise in addition to the professional staff who are being employed to work full-time to deliver a programme of events.”

A Hastings-born managing director, Zoe Ashdown, is due to begin work on December 17.

She has extensive experience working in theatre, film, and television.

Vicki Ireland, from Buckswood School, said: “We are absolutely delighted and can’t wait to get going.

“The underlying principle behind the project will be ‘In Hastings, By Hastings, For Hastings’.”

Councillor John Hodges said: “This school has a lot of ideas and enthusiasm.

“It is the very best that we in Hastings who love the performing arts could ever have wished for.”

Councillor Emily Westley said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for the young people of our town who are interested in arts and culture.”

Ron Sollars, secretary of St Mary-in-the-Castle Friends, will be one of the 12 trustees on the soon-to-be established charitable trust.

He brings with him 15 years of experience as a volunteer at St Mary-in-the-Castle, and will be the link between the friends and the new leaseholder.

He said: “It is a very good deal.

“We will be happy to help in any way we can.”

The building was previously managed by Barbara Rogers from 2009 until August this year, and the lease had been put up for tender.