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Page last updated at 11:47 GMT, Monday, 11 October 2010 12:47 UK
The Apex venue in Bury St Edmunds aims for big names
By Andrew Woodger
BBC Suffolk

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Video: Look East's Dawn Gerber watches a BurySOUND rehearsal

A new £18.5m venue in Bury St Edmunds is opening with a pledge to provide a stage for national and local artistes.

The Apex is part of the Arc shopping centre development on the old cattle market site.

The first event is heat one of the BurySOUND local bands competition on Friday, 8 October.

"There's a lot of interest and promoters are getting quite excited by the size of the space," said Nick Wells, The Apex's music programmer.

Nick Wells and Tony Doherty, The Apex
Nick Wells and Tony Doherty are part of The Apex management team

The venue has been six years in the planning and there's a public open weekend on 9-10, October 2010.

The weekend is rounded off as the Fat Cat Comedy Club leaves its Corn Exchange home and moves in on Sunday evening.

Suffolk firm Hopkins Architects designed the building which has been compared to a smaller version of the main Snape Maltings Concert Hall.

However, unlike that Snape venue, The Apex has been designed to be flexible.

Its 500 seats can be at the same level as the stage, or below it on the floor which moves up and down. The stage could be 'in-the-round' or even at the other end of the auditorium.

When the floor seats are removed, the capacity for standing events is 750. That creates a fairly narrow moshpit, although there will always be seating on the balconies.

"We can also reduce the size of the stage using drapes and curtains and make it feel much more cosy and intimate," said Mr Wells.

"A lot of people have been presuming it's just a classical concert hall, but by having BurySOUND it's saying straight away that that's not the case."

Kate Rusby at Harvest at Jimmy's
Kate Rusby also appeared in Suffolk at Harvest at Jimmy's, 2010

Wot, no Killers?

The opening programme for 2010 is being called the 'Sound Check Season', before the venue has an 'official opening' in 2011.

It features some big names from the world of folk (Kate Rusby), pop (Steve Harley), classical (Julian Lloyd Webber) and progressive rock (Focus and Wishbone Ash at the ProGBury weekend).

Many of these could be described as 'heritage acts'.

A Killers tribute band called The Fillers are the closest thing to the type of up and coming band who would play the established gig circuit, or appear on the front of NME.

Aside from the BurySOUND competition, there's a night called Best of Bury featuring Ten City Nation, Vide Infra and five other local acts.

So when will we see nationally-known bands of the ilk of The Clash, who played at the town's Corn Exchange in 1978?

"It'll be coming, don't worry," said Mr Wells. "It's a brand new building and our name isn't out there yet.

"One of the things we're working hard on is to let the agencies and promoters know we exist.

"There are a lot of different conversations going on about dates, fees, availability - there's real interest.

"So watch this space and let's see what happens in the new year.

"We're trying to get as many people involved in this building, so I'm saying 'you come and curate an evening'.

"I think it's the way we'll make The Apex a real success."

The Apex, Bury St Edmunds
The Apex is on the main square at the centre of the Arc development

'Wonderfully versatile'

The cost of the venue has almost doubled since it was first being planned by its owner St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

There have been inevitable questions of whether it has been money well spent.

"When people see the building they'll think so," said Councillor Lynsey Alexander, cabinet member for arts and culture.

"We've used a lot of local companies to build and fit out The Apex and it's part of the economic and cultural investment that St Edmundsbury has made in our borough.

"The Atheneaum is a wonderful assembly rooms and the Corn Exchange has wonderful architecture, but it's not really fit-for-purpose for the modern world.

"This venue will be specifically for music, but multi-purpose and be able to be used for conferences, so it's wonderfully versatile.

"We've spent a lot of money on the sound, so no-one will be disturbed who actually lives in the Arc development.

"We hope that it'll be something that will enliven the place rather than take away from it."

Visit The Apex website for full programme details.




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Growing older with The Clash
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Come dancing at a new 9m centre
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100m shopping centre opens doors
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