Agenda item


To welcome guests and receive information of existing venues around the country.


(a)      10.10am  - Rufus Centre, Flitwick TC - guest Jonathan Barkat, Business and Facilities Manager (Rufus Centre) -  


(b)      10.40am – The Neeld  and the History Museum, Chippenham TC – guests Matt Kirby, Director of Community Services, Julie Hook, Head of Venues (Neeld) and Melissa Barnett, Head of Museum and Heritage (Museum). (Community and Arts Centre) (History Museum)


Appendix A – Background & Introduction paper.

Appendix B - The Rufus Centre.

Appendix C –The Neeld.

Appendix D –The History Museum.



By invitation, guests from the Rufus Centre in Flitwick and The Neeld and The History Museum at Chippenham gave an overview of how the venues delivered their services, what groups used the facilities, governance of the venues and the annual running costs and practices involved.


Rufus Centre, Flitwick Town Council


Jonathan Barkat informed Members the centre had 30 fully serviced offices, conference and meetings rooms and the main hall which could seat approximately 250 people.  There was also a bar/café which opened Monday to Saturday between the hours of 0800 to 1600 hours and opened for events on a Friday evening.  The Town Council, which owned the building, was based in the centre and community events were regularly held there.   The centre was run as a community facility with a room set aside for charitable and community groups free of charge.  In normal times the centre operated 6 days a week with tenants having 24 hour and 7 days a week access.


A question was raised as to which type of hiring proved the most profitable and it was confirmed the regular meeting room hirers provided a regular income in ‘normal times’.  Weddings could also be held in the centre and these generated a large income when bookings were received.  A virtual office had been introduced within the last few months and also hot desking was being reviewed for the near future.


The vision for the future would be expansion and the possibility of creating a hotel on site, extend the car park and increase tenant’s office space.  It was confirmed that the centre would make approximately £50,000 profit per annum but in the present climate a true reflection was not possible with reduced hiring income because of COVID with the aim being to keep  the business side separate from the Council element.  A more accurate picture would be known by next year.


The Neeld, Chippenham Town Council


Matt Kirby informed members that both venues were located in the town centre.

Julie Hook informed members about The Neeld. It could be used for weddings, dances, concerts and themed fairs as the retractable seating allowed the space needed to be adapted to what purpose was required.  Primarily the centre was run at cost to the Council for the benefit of the community and not for profit.  Community groups used the facilites for dance and theatre groups and are charged community rates with a corporate rate for businessess.  The size of the venue offers versatility of use and provides a great community hub for meeting up.   It was noted that the size of a venue could be influential to whether or not it was on the touring circuit, i.e. host national touring shows and perfomances.  The Neeld did receive touring shows.


The venue had a bar/café which was seen as an important income stream. It was felt that more could be made of the facility to boost income further. 



A question about available parking was raised and Julie commented that town centre parking was used but the limit of two hour parking in one car park did not facilitate attendance of matinee shows. This impacted on the amount of matinee shows programmed and income. Free parking after 6.00pm worked well for evening shows.


Chippenham Museum


Melissa Barnett informed members that the museum was created by Chippenham Town Council with the support of the community, Wiltshire Council and other local charities.


There are 30,000 users of the museum annually being mainly local people with some tourists visiting.  The building was located in the centre of the town with free entry. It was run and supported by Chippenham Town Counil and had 70 volunteers and 100 Friends of the Museum.


Members were informed that a museum was an expensive option with many insurance and legal requirements but offered educational opportunities to local schools and visitors to the town.  A Heritage Centre would be an easier option initially to encourage visitors whilst also offering hidden values to volunteers with a sense of belonging celebrating the history of a town.


It was suggested that Emma Carver of the Arts Council England, Museums, be a point of contact to offer advice and information if this option was pursued.  Members agreed that Leighton Buzzard had a proactive history society who would be interested in this project and they had a wealth of artefacts which were scattered around different premises in the town at present and could benefit from being catalogued and displayed in one place.


A question was raised as to whether the residents of Chippenham valued the museum and it was confirmed they were one hundred percent behind it and it gave a sense of pride to celebrate their own history in this way.   The cost of running the museum was £250,000 a year and costs for The Neeld were £300,000 with income of £150,000.  The Neeld running costs included costs incurred for running the Council offices as the buildings were cojoined and venues were run as community projects. Marketing and promotion would be planned to improve income potental in the future.


Funding the two venues was being managed through a supported service led approach, not as separate businesses. The Neeld budget lines incorporate the Council’s office facilities (part of the same building). 


Thanks were given to all the guests for attending the meeting and giving their presentations and advice,  it was helpful to hear how the facilities worked whilst giving consideration to the land south of the High Street in Leighton Buzzard.


RESOLVED to note the information.




Supporting documents: