Page last updated at 12:51 GMT, Friday, 24 July 2009 13:51 UK

Lotto cash for 'Memo' restoration


Supporters say the hall should be enjoyed by future generations

A hall which narrowly missed out in the BBC's Restoration contest is to receive lottery money to help save it.

Supporters pledged to continue fighting to save the Newbridge Miners' Institute and Hall in Caerphilly county - known as the Memo - after the 2004 TV show.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has now given £129,600 to the project, and said campaigners could apply for the full £2.8m needed for the project.

Supporters of the institute said they were delighted.

They missed out on more than £3m after the Memo came second to a Birmingham grammar school in the BBC programme, which aimed to help restore historic buildings and save them from ruin.

Newbridge Miners' Hall and Institute
Its very existence proves that ordinary people can become truly extraordinary through vision, generosity and sheer determination
Howard Stone, chair, Newbridge Institute and Memorial Hall

However, the the high-profile TV competition kick-started a campaign to save the hall, which was built in 1925 to commemorate those in the local community who had given their lives in World War I.

It houses the largest ball room in the south Wales valleys and has an art deco auditorium.

The hall already houses 20 local groups and societies, promoting community and music events, which attract up to 35,000 visitors a year.

Among the stars who have performed at the hall are artists as varied as Tom Jones, Joe Loss, Clara Novello and the Stranglers.

James Dean Bradfield also worked behind the bar before he went on to become lead singer and guitarist of the Manic Street Preachers.

The proposed plans include the complete restoration of the hall, including the auditorium, its stage and painted interior, as well as improving access through a new link block.

Supporters said an important part of the project will be to develop it as a centre for heritage learning, to help promote the understanding of the rich social, heritage and memorial aspects of the building.

The HLF has given the campaigners £129,600 in development funding to help progress their plans, and neans the Memo can now progress to the next stage of the application process.

They have up to two years to submit more detailed plans and apply for the £2.8 of HLF support that they are seeking for the £3.8m project.

Newbridge Miners' Institute and Hall's opening ceremony
An opening ceremony launched the hall in 1925

Howard Stone, chair of the Newbridge Institute & Memorial Hall, said campaigners were "delighted" at the HLF's initial support.

"The Memorial Hall is not some crumbling monument to the wealth and privilege of a bygone age," he said.

"Its very existence proves that ordinary people can become truly extraordinary through vision, generosity and sheer determination.

"The same community with the same sense of civic pride that brought it into being is trying desperately to save this people's palace of the valleys.

"We have been given a helping hand in the first step towards saving this building and now need the people's support to ensure that its heritage is saved for future generations".

Jennifer Stewart, head of the HLF in Wales, said: "This project aims to restore one of the finest surviving early 20th century Art Deco cinema/theatres in the UK and open it up to local people and visitors alike.

"What's more, it will safeguard a living monument to the Welsh mining community and increase opportunities for people to learn about our industrial heritage."

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