AS the Board which runs Trowbridge Town Hall continues to work on the details of a partnership project which could help secure the building’s future, more of the historic building’s current users have spoken out about the importance to the community of the opportunities it already offers local people.

They are determined to make people realise the many different ways the Town Hall Trust is already adding to the community by restoring the hall and allowing local groups young and old, from right across the town, to use its space and facilities at an affordable cost.

Among those who has spoken up to support the Hall are the Laver family: teenager Ben and his band Falling Fish know that without the backing of the Hall’s Unsigned nights, they would not have got as far as they have.

Unsigned, a project started by Trowbridge teenager Alice McNeil to give local young musicians somewhere to start their live performance careers, has blossomed into a series of hugely successful evenings.

Not only has Alice managed to attract a huge range of musical styles to appear, but she is providing an affordable evening, costing just £3 for live entertainment in a safe environment, giving the youth community a meeting place and a voice, and allowing them to develop ambitions

This spring saw an evening workshop at the Town Hall, You Can’t Have a Career in the Music Industry – Can You?. Here young people could hear from and put questions to a panel of established musicians, chaired by Richard Pitt from BBC introducing, which showed them how to build on their dreams.

“I’ve had some great opportunities out of Town Hall Arts. I’ve met some great people and had opportunities that no where else in Wiltshire is providing,” drummer Ben said. “There is nothing quite like Town Hall Arts in Wiltshire and if it gets closed it would leave a hole in the local area. It provides great opportunities for young people in the creative industries.”

His mum Carla added: “As a parent of a young musician, I know my son has benefited so much from his involvement with Unsigned at Town Hall Arts. His band’s very first gig was there and the band has gone on to play many more gigs there. A brilliant stepping stone!

“Town Hall Arts is the only venue in the area which allows young bands and solo artists to perform in a safe, supportive environment. It would be a tragedy for the young musicians in Trowbridge and surrounding areas if there were no more Unsigned nights.”

Falling Fish, who are based in Melksham, have gone on to play more live shows and are due on stage this Saturday at 11.45am at the Alzheimer’s Support Fun Day in Trowbridge Park.

The Unsigned nights are just one of the events Town Hall Arts, in keeping with the Trust’s aim of providing affordable arts for all, has kickstarted – they and the music workshop day, along with the scheme to provide free rehearsal space for young bands, have attracted support from Wiltshire Music Connect.

“They’re a wonderful example of how we can get the ball rolling on a project, and then people get involved with it, make it happen, and other arts organisations come along and support it,” explained THA Director Tracy Sullivan.

“That’s one of the main points of the Trust keeping the Hall open and restoring it, we are providing an affordable venue for all sorts of activities. Without a space like this, people who want to do something, whether its start a band in their teens or when they’re older, or fulfil that dream of turning their artistic hobby into a small business, simply can’t progress.”

Working with people with special needs, whether physical or educational, is another of the Trust’s stated aims and successes.

Because of their work in restoring the Hall, the building’s lift is now in use again after years out of action, allowing people with restricted mobility access to the first floor to see exhibitions, use the workshop spaces, attend classes and events in the Supper Room – in short, to enjoy everything about the Town Hall.

“We know the lift is old and it needs replacing, it’ll be one of the projects we want to work on in the future,” Tracy said. “But it is there, and it means everyone can take part in our events and classes.

“Inclusion for everyone is a big part of our thinking and we really feel it’s something people in Trowbridge appreciate.”

Another strand to the inclusion theme is the creation of a SEND theatre company, run by Trowbridge actor Phoebe Kemp, which offers people over 16 with SEND the chance to experience drama. Its members may have already enjoyed the performance arts while at school, or never had the chance to express themselves in this way before, and it is one of a very few similar schemes in the South West.

Each session includes a mix of drama exercises and games, with the added bonus that sensory equipment and music is an integral part of the sessions. And far from being esoteric, the group studies mainstream plays: this term they are focussing on Shakespeare and working towards creating a sensory version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

“We are delighted that we have been able to delay our decision to close for a month, while we wait a final grant decision by the Town Council and continue our talks with Eat That Frog on expanding their activities here, which will boost our income so we can cover our core finding,” Board chairman Colin Kay said.

“We want to reassure everyone using the Hall, and all our supporters, that we are not giving up, we will not close without a fight and that their support, whether that’s by way of a donation or through making their voices heard, is vital to us.”