School in bid for St Mary-in-the-Castle

St Mary in the Castle
St Mary in the Castle

A PRIVATE school has made an audacious bid to turn the iconic St Mary-In-The-Castle building into a state-of the-art cultural centre.

Buckswoods School based in Guestling wants to establish the Grade II listed seafront venue as a cultural destination for the south east.

It is recommended that at the cabinet meeting on Monday (December 3), the council grants a lease for the building, in Pelham Place, to St Mary-in-the-Castle Charitable Trust, which will be funded and supported by the school.

A Hastings-born managing director, with experience in film, theatre, and television, has already been recruited even before the bid is approved.

However the identity of the woman in question is being kept tightly under wraps for now.

Giles Sutton, headmaster of Buckswood School, said: “I fell in love with this building when I first saw it, and was determined to help.

“If the cabinet agrees the proposals, I will look forward to working with Hastings Borough Council, the trustees, and the people of Hastings to ensure that St Mary-in-the-Castle fulfils its true potential.”

Buckswood intends St Mary-in-the-Castle to be used by the whole community, and if the lease is granted, the business will focus on six areas: the venue, youth and education, performing arts, bringing community groups together, external investment and the cafe and exhibition space.

Leader of Hastings Borough Council councillor Jeremy Birch said: “This is another excellent news story for our town.

“An exciting proposal has been put forward by Buckswood School, which wants to establish St Mary-in-the-Castle as a cultural destination for the south east.”

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

In February, Nick Perry, Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesman, launched a petition to keep it as an arts venue.

He said: “I haven’t yet seen the detail of the plan, and I was critical of the tender process itself, but if the council has been able to secure the future of the venue as an arts and performance space then I am delighted and I congratulate them.”

St Mary-in-the-Castle Friends welcomed the stability that would be brought to the building if Buckswood’s plans go ahead.

Chris Shoreman, chairman of the friends, said: “We want the best for the venue.

“If there is to be a charitable trust with good support behind it. Of course we are fully prepared to do whatever we can to help.

“The problem has been short term-ism with regard to St Mary-in-the-Castle, which has made it impossible to build up any sort of income stream.

“The friends have spoken to Buckswood and we are happy they are on the right track.”