Ripon arts hub vision for all

A local group is transforming its City Centre Premises into a Community Arts Hub to be used and enjoyed by all.

Ripon Operatic Society (RAOS), which has been a part of the City now for 80 years, bought 49 Allhallowgate, the former British Legion Club back in 2014 and started rehearsing and performing in the main room after a lick of paint. 

Since then the building has been transformed, using profits raised from performances and fundraising efforts, into a fully working 120 seat theatre and rehearsal space complete with a licensed bar.

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As well as the Society performing several shows a year, the space is also used by the Ripon Panto Group, local band night organisers and even some comedians. Private events have also been held at the venue.  

Over the last few months, whilst no rehearsals or performances have been able to take place, the Society has been looking at what would be needed in order to make it an all-inclusive arts venue for the entire community, including how to raise funds to make this happen.

Mayor of Harrogate District Coun Stuart Martin MBE recently visited the venue to see what has happened so far and find out from the Society what needs to be done for it to become available for everyone.

“Our vision is to create an accessible, versatile, and creative space, available to all, bringing together all arts disciplines including music, theatre, comedy, dance and also visual/sensory art such as art and photography exhibitions,” said Hannah Ruddy, Committee Member who is aiding fundraising.

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“There is a wealth of talent and appreciation in Ripon for all kinds of art forms and, despite what is happening in the world at the moment, we know that when we are able to again, the community will really appreciate and use the space that we want to create.

“One problem we have always had is that the building does not lend itself well to wheelchair users and people with mobility issues” added Linda, Chair of RAOS.

“We have had to tell people needing wheelchair access that there isn’t any and that has to change.”

As well as installing a wheelchair lift and improving disabled facilities, the venue also needs to make improvements to its backstage area allowing for more youth groups to use the space in line with Safegurding regulations by adding more dressing rooms and facilities.

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There are also plans to transform the large bar area into a space for exhibiting art and local artists are already showing an interest in displaying their work.

Coun Stuart Martin MBE, of Ripon was impressed by the work done so far and the potential.

“The Ripon Community will most definitely benefit in this project” he said.

“It’s a really great space and once the improvements have been made it will be able to be used by everyone. I’m really looking forward to seeing the end result.”

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In order to raise the funds required, especially in light of the fact the Society has been unable to carry out its usual fundraising activities this year, it has set up a funding campaign in association with Aviva, which backs community projects, running until October 7. It is also actively seeking grants and donations from other sources.

“So far we have raised over £4,500 which is incredible,” added Hannah. “However, the work we need to carry out, particularly in relation to disabled access is going to cost quite a lot more. However we are confident that with the community’s support and that of local businesses, we will be able to achieve our target and we would be incredibly grateful if people could take a look at what we are doing, recognise the benefit, and get behind us”.

People can view the project in more detail, including watching a short film by visiting where they can also donate and claim rewards. Donations are also welcome directly to RAOS via its registered address, 14 Primrose Drive, Ripon, HG4 1EY.

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