EXCITING plans to transform redundant buildings adjacent to The Whitaker in Rawtenstall will hopefully secure £1.9m Heritage Lottery Funding next year.
Rossendale Borough Council, is working in partnership with The Whitaker, and is supporting the application, Councillors backed the plans by providing matched funding of £189, 950.
Managing director of The Whitaker Carl Bell said: “We hope to hear if we have been successful by June 2019, then hopefully the conversion of the barn and stables will be completed by summer 2020. The theme of the expansion is nature, society and creativity.
“If we get the go-ahead, we will have twice the space. We want to relocate the café and bar and we will then reintegrate those vacated rooms back into the museum to make it bigger.
“We want to fill the hallways and stairs with paintings from the collection that people have not seen in years.
“We have two rooms that are used by local artists and we will also be using items from the collection to provide them with inspiration.”
Following on from the success of Rossendale ’60s Festival, The Whitaker will be looking to introduce a themed area bringing more modern social history to life, including artefacts from the heyday of the Astoria when the big names would top the bill.
Carl said they were also looking to feature local people’s stories. This would take the form of a living history detailing the stories of people who came over from Ireland to make their home in Rossendale as well as people from South Asia.
He said: “Watch this space when we start asking for local memorabilia.”
The Whitaker is a not-for-profit community interest company, which took over the art gallery and museum in April 2013 to ensure the former council-owned museum was preserved as a tourist attraction.
However, Carl and the team knew that just keeping the museum in its original format was not a guarantee of future success, hence the innovative lottery plans.
The new space will provide a large catering kitchen, bar and café, an event space for performers and artistes and a bigger area for community activities and more scope to get the community involved.
There is also the capacity to have film nights in a cosy intimate setting without the need for a big city trek.
Carl said: “We want to market The Whitaker as the gateway to East Lancashire because we are so close to the end of the M66, but we don’t just want The Whitaker to benefit from the investment if it is granted.
“We will have volunteers who will also be promoting the heritage sites and attractions around Rossendale to visitors, so they will be encouraged to also visit other areas.
“In the park we have resurrected a 1950s tree walk, which is ideal for schoolchildren and youth groups. It leads from the top car park and features 11 different tree species.
“We want to encourage people to make better use of the whole park, not just the museum, and one thing being considered is an art walk with sculptures in the park.
“Thanks to the council’s matched funding we have been able to put in the bid. When it gets to a certain point, The Whitaker will then run it on behalf of the community and the council.”