Preserving & Celebrating Our Heritage Part I – The Story So Far
1963 – Rhodes Centre opens
The Rhodes Commonwealth Centre, which, through several iterations, has been at the cultural and artistic heart of Bishop’s Stortford for nearly 60 years, opens its doors, providing a performance space, civic assembly hall and exhibition space much loved by the people of the town and surrounding area.
2005 – The Bishop’s Stortford Museum opens
With National Lottery assistance, the Rhodes Memorial Museum merges with the Bishop’s Stortford Local History Museum to become the Bishop’s Stortford Museum, establishing a comprehensive collection of the history and heritage of the town and surrounding area. The Commonwealth Centre joins with the new museum as the Rhodes Arts Complex, under the management of the Rhodes Birthplace Trust, a registered charity.
2016 – Exploratory talks commence
The Birthplace Trust is invited by the East Herts District and Bishop’s Stortford Town Councils to join them in exploring the potential for a new, state of the art, 500+ seat theatre and arts venue, as part of a major Town Centre redevelopment at Old River Lane (ORL), in compliance with draft district plan policies.
A clear need to define the separate roles of the ORL Arts Centre and the Rhodes complex is identified, that will give the best outcome for the town. These initial definitions are captured in the form of a “Heads of Terms [of agreement]” document, signed by all parties, which forms the basis for further development planning for both venues.
2018 – Draft East Herts District Plan signed off
Because of its location at a major transport hub, Bishop’s Stortford is already identified as a desirable place to call home for many people in the emerging biotech and computing industries in Cambridge and North London. Already the largest town in East Hertfordshire, it’s population will grow to 50,000 by 2033.
This is recognised in the 2011-2033 District Plan, its policies covering new homes, enhanced retail and sports facilities and a significant improvement in capacity for Culture and the Arts, to meet the increasing expectations of a modern, growing community. The new Arts Centre will provide a catalyst for developing a sense of belonging and pride in their chosen place to live, as well as top class entertainment for the town’s residents, both existing and new, whilst creating an opportunity to refocus cultural and other activities at Rhodes.
2018 – Rhodes Birthplace Trust commence work on re-defining the role of the Rhodes Complex
The trustees create a Museum and Arts working group to identify the changes that would need to be made at the Rhodes Arts Complex to fulfil a complementary (to ORL) cultural role in the local community. As well as consulting with staff, trustees and users, the group takes advice from external experts, and visits peer organisations, to produce a robust yet adaptable development plan that will:
• Specify our core future activities, who we are here to serve and what we will provide.
• Modernise governance arrangements, by converting the governing body from an Unincorporated Charitable Trust to a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO).
• Create a new name for the CIO, to reflect its new role in the community
• Establish a transition plan to move us forward from where we are today to the revised future role.