A HIGH quality cafe bar and bistro is on the future prog ramme for the Ludlow Assembly Rooms (LAR).

Kate Howe, chief executive of LAR, has revealed that negotiations are taking place with the operator of food facilities in Hereford and Cambridge.

The merging of the box office for LAR and the Visitor Information Centre is also part of an initiative to create a new cultural hub for the town.

It is also intended to bring together the Ludlow volunteer ‘arts army’ as a cohesive force rather than have various organisations competing for the resource.

As previously revealed by the Advertiser the objective is to boost Ludlow’s position as a centre for the arts and increase the number of people coming to the town.

LAR is acting as strategic lead for a new consortium working with Shropshire Council, Ludlow Town Council, The Shropshire Hills and Ludlow Destination Development Partnership and Ludlow Chamber of Trade and Commerce, along with some 30 other partners to create a more cohesive cultural tourism offer in the town.

“There is huge potential to market Ludlow effectively as a destination with a distinctive cultural brand, and in the face of increasing competition it makes no sense for the various venues, events and festivals to compete for scarce resources including parking, volunteers and commercial sponsorship,” said Kate Howe, speaking at the venue’s annual general meeting.

“Rather than competing, we aim to work together to produce complementary programmes, share expertise and resources.

“As part of this, our aim for the LAR is to create a new cultural hub, including a bistro, centralised ticketing service, craft gallery showcasing local makers, and a contemporary approach to heritage interpretation.”

The first stage will start within the next 12 months and involves relocating the majority of museum objects into the Buttercross, as well as relocating and merging the LAR’s box office with the Visitor Information Centre.

“Relocating the museum frees up prime retail space on the market square where we are planning to open a high quality cafe bar and bistro operated by a concession.

“We are currently negotiating with Bill Sewell, who operates the highly acclaimed All Saints in Hereford and Michaelhouse in Cambridge,” said Kate.

In total, the major fit-out will include a full building refurbishment to create a second smaller auditorium / film studio, new meeting rooms, and improvements to circulation spaces, and is anticipated to take three to five years.

The plan also incorporates a new exhibition space within the LAR’s glass atrium and working with the museum team to present an introductory insight into Ludlow’s history which will signpost visitors out to a trail of historic and cultural attractions throughout the town and wider area.

“We will hopefully soon be in a position to appoint an architect to work with us to develop design solutions to make the building work efficiently as a whole within the constraints of our listed building status,”

added Kate.

“However, significant investment is required to upgrade and reconfigure the building and this longer term project will be dependent on a major capital fundraising campaign.

“This first phase is estimated at about £300k, which we will need to raise through grants and private donors, and I am keen to develop our relationship with business supporters and explore new income streams.”