Festival event for mothballed Rolle mark a new era for site
PUBLISHED: 09:32 24 March 2015 | UPDATED: 13:34 24 March 2015
Rolle College will almost certainly re-open in May, seven years after it was mothballed, and host the Exmouth Festival .
The Journal understands that the newest bit of what is now called the Rolle Centre, the £2.3million, 13-year-old Owen Building, will play centre stage and host a theatrical production.
The festival will mark the start of a process gradually bringing part of the old campus back into use as a community, training and jobs hub, with the rest sold off for housing.
But the responsibility for its long-term future rests squarely on the shoulders of residents, a case of ‘use it or lose it’.
The former teacher training college opened in 1949 after being gifted to Exmouth by Lady Rolle.
Education reforms saw the site pass to Plymouth University, and when teacher training moved the site was closed .
Since then Rolle Exmouth Ltd (REL) a not-for-profit company, has fought to retain it for the town.
At the annual town meeting chairman of REL’s board, Deborah Hallett said: “It will be owned by a community investment company - it cannot be taken away from us.
“But neither will it be there unless you want to continue to have in it things that will be of benefit to the town.”
The 13,000 sq ft Owen Building is ideal for the festival.
It boasts a 120-seat lecture theatre, an exhibition area, five seminar rooms and an impressive 240-seat theatre.
Mrs Hallett said: “Some of the site will go towards housing; REL is not able to secure the whole site, we will, however, have ownership of a good part.”
She said grants and £115,000 from a share sale had ensured that the Rolle Centre would open ‘for the people of Exmouth in perpetuity’.
She added: “I have a model heads of terms (contract) from Plymouth University that should be signed in time for us to have something open around the time the Exmouth Festival opens, which will be the beginning of the start of the Rolle Centre.”
She added: “Hopefully, this will be the last time anyone from REL is going to stand here in front of you and say that, with luck and a following wind, we hope to open up the Rolle Centre.”
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