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Cultural quarter plans for town deserve a warm response
4:10pm Thursday 26th December 2013 in Opinion
AMBITIOUS plans to create a thriving cultural quarter on the edge of Kendal town centre deserve an enthusiastic welcome.
At the very least they provide a degree of certainty about the Canal Head area following years of decline, frustration and, ultimately, thwarted ambitions.
It could be argued that by abandoning its plans for a supermarket there, Tesco has actually done Kendal a huge favour.
The store chain’s decision has forced a re-think about what to do with the former Goodacres Carpets site - and the resulting proposition for a complex of studios, galleries and artists’ workspace is a suitably creative response.
Those behind the scheme certainly deserve a thumbs-up for proposing a use for the site which, arguably, fits better with Kendal’s character than a supermarket in that location would.
They have reminded us that Kendal should not be viewed just as a gateway to the Lakes but as a distinctive place to visit in its own right.
The town has a proud history and artistic creativity has always played a key part in this. Indeed, it is good that these proposals will provide a counter-balance to the Lake District’s self-declared ‘UK capital of adventure’ title.
Not everyone who visits the Lake Distric wants to walk on the fells or sail on the lakes; many prefer a much more sedate visitor experience.
Although there are already high quality galleries, museums and performance venues in South Lakeland - including Abbot Hall, Kendal Museum and the Brewery Arts Centre - there is room for a more grassroots approach.
There may be fears that a new cultural quarter might divert visitors from these existing attractions but it is more likely that a development of creative quality will actually attract more people to Kendal.
Support for the proposal has already been voiced by the artistic community and at least one leading local councillor. Let us hope the rest of the town can be as enthusiastic.
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