THE chief executive of a charity which has officially taken over the running of an arts centre has called the move “an exciting opportunity”.
As reported in the A&T, users of the Hanger Farm complex in Aikman Lane at Totton were left shocked last year when Totton College, which managed the site, announced it was to terminate its contract.
Owner Totton and Eling Town Council has now appointed The Minstead Trust following a tender process. The charitable organisation provides people with learning difficulties with support, residential care and work experience opportunities at its 10-acre woodland, Furzey Gardens, near Lyndhurst.
Trust CEO Madeleine Durie told the A&T there would not be a significant change to the current events programme, which is very successful, but it would be opened up to more people in the community.
“For us, it is an exciting opportunity to provide more chances to those with learning difficulties to get involved in the community and further break down those barriers,” she said.
“We are hoping to introduce more daytime events, not just for those with learning difficulties but also for the elderly. We also plan to run a new inclusive drama group. It’s such a fabulous venue, but it just needs a new lease of life.”
Ms Durie (pictured second from left) said the trust’s vision is to support those with learning difficulties so they are able to achieve greater independence, lead more fulfilled lives and live as full citizens in society.
“At Furzey Gardens we offer a range of services,” she continued. “Obviously, it is a beautiful place to visit, but it also provides training opportunities in horticulture and some of our students work in the café.
“Through this, we’re able to break down perceptions of people with learning difficulties. What we saw in Hanger Farm is that it is a similar set-up and a great example of social enterprise.”
The trust plans to continue hosting film screenings for children at the centre during the school holidays, as well as adding in a “relaxed performance” for youngsters with special educational needs. This includes making the lights a little brighter and the sound of the film a little quieter.
The café at Hanger Farm is now open for longer during the day and serves hot drinks, cakes and light lunches.
Maxine Room, principal of Totton College which is run by social justice charity Nacro, said: “We are delighted the Minstead Trust will be managing Hanger Farm arts centre moving forward.
“We recognise the expertise within the trust and we feel confident they will be able to enhance the visitor experience and continue to grow the business. We wish them well in their future endeavours.”
The centre has a working theatre, gallery, exhibition area and studio space, and is also available to hire for wedding receptions. For more information or to view the latest programme of events, visit www.hangerfarm.co.uk