A CLOSED clothing and homeware store in Colchester town centre is set to be transformed into a new public arts space by the owners of a beloved gallery.

We are the Minories has taken on the old Laura Ashley unit, in Trinity Square, and will be reviving the premises whilst a major refurb of the gallery is completed.

The Minories closed at the end of May when Colchester Institute and Wilkin and Sons decided they could no longer afford to operate the gallery and adjoining tearoom due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Owners the Victor Batte-Lay Foundation, a charitable trust, have been working on plans to bring the premises back into use including launching a fundraising campaign.

The charity created a new trading arm, called We are the Minories, in order to put plans in place to reopen the East Hill building.

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A "major" refurbishment of the premises is underway, but is some way off being completed.

So in the meantime the group has taken over the closed homeware store and will be displaying art in the windows.

Revived - We Are the Minories is opening an art space in the old Laura Ashley building

Revived - We Are the Minories is opening an art space in the old Laura Ashley building

  • The former home of Laura Ashley in Colchester

A spokesman for We are the Minories said: "We are missing The Minories. We are very much looking forward to returning to our beautiful building as soon as what has turned into quite major refurbishment is complete.

"However, in the meantime, We are the Minories, as our name suggests, will be doing everything we can to carry on creating and exhibiting, by taking the spirit and aims of Victor Batte-Lay Foundation and the Minories with us wherever we go.

"We are delighted then, to have secured space in the old Laura Ashley unit in the town centre to use for artist residencies and display.

"From next week you will notice activity in the shop on the corner of Trinity Square and Pelham’s Lane as we begin to kit out the space to welcome our first cohort of resident artists, working safely under Covid guidelines.

"We’re calling this residency programme Arable as we plan for it to be very fertile, with its participants working with our collection, reinterpreting it, locating it and us in our contemporary landscape and identity."

Four artists - Deborah Lander, Kayleigh Reed, Heidi Sharp and Shane Wimbledon - will showcase their work.

For updates, visit www.wearetheminories.org.