Good food and coffee… new life begins

We have been waiting for today.

With the onset of autumn, where better to hunker down than the new improved Common Room Cafe?

And we hope you’ll like the cafe’s loos too!

All the studios now have people in (or in the process of moving in). FAYAP have just taken their keys for the old Saloon. Yee-hah.

There is potentially still some space in the shared workspace in the Old Committee Room (4 desk spaces, 2x2m floor area for each, and a bit more). Please get in touch by email if you are interested. It’s a bit experimental….

The rooms for hire are not yet up and running as we want the longer term occupiers to have a chance to get happy and settled, and deal with any teething issues first. And we need to sort out the furniture. But we are expecting to offer 3 rooms:

  • Corner Room: the smart front room on the corner next to the cafe.
  • Back Room – a meeting or art room.
  • Print Room – intended to have a printmaking press but also for use as a meeting or art room

Please get in touch by email if you are interested in renting these. The Print Room and Back Room will be generally let by morning/afternoon/evening sessions. – but we have had an interesting enquiry about two regular whole day bookings for both. The Corner Room we think may be available for longer periods e.g. exhibitions as well as for one off events or meetings. We will feel our way into this to work out what works….

Access to the Gallery space is something else we are still working out – we just want our core community to have a chance to settle in a bit first and we have a few more small jobs to do in readiness. Plus we need to focus on our day jobs!

Lift off

Yesterday evening we had a brilliant outdoor meeting of lease-signing and socially distanced intimacy. We have a great group of artists and creative people taking studios most of whom were able to come along; two designers have started in their spaces and the rest are coming in for 1st September. The flat is also once again being lived in. It is thrilling to have reached this point.

Progress on the Common Room cafe is also on track for a 1st September opening, and FAYAP hope also to be starting with their room round about the same time. Both have fantastic rooms taking shape.

The first art exhibition has just been hung and we previewed it to our new resident community last night. It features work produced in solitary confinement during lockdown by Pinkie the Gnome – details on our Instagram @exconclub – We haven’t yet worked out how we will be opening the exhibition for public viewing, but there will be opportunities once everything else is up and running, in line with Covid guidelines. Mask wearing probably required….

We don’t yet know how we are going to make the intended rooms for short hire available given the Covid restrictions and our need to take sensible precautions, but we will look at this once we have the core community happily settled.

For most people wanting to have a look round, the opening of the cafe will be the first proper opportunity – and we hope you will love it.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us over the last year and a bit. There has been so much interest and goodwill from the Fram community and further afield – and we have needed this and been greatly buoyed by it.

A ‘phase 2’ has emerged – this being the former Assembly Hall and Theatre next door: more news of that to follow…

Midsummers Day

Those passing the club will have noticed that we have actually done some work. Another 2 or 3 weeks and we should be planting up in the courtyard – not ideal timing but we do have a new water supply now.

The Common Room are readying to open the cafe in August (subject to updating of government guidelines) but we and they may manage sooner. Framlingham Town Council are moving into the northern end of the building and will be up and running there in July. Very exciting to be about to have some occupation.

Access to studios should be feasible within current guidelines as soon as we have finished building works – and so we expect to open studios in mid July. There has been a steady stream of creative folk getting in touch through lockdown, and a number of people questioning their previous assumptions about travel to work and now wanting to work closer to home. This is all for the good, and very much as we had hoped (although we didn’t expect to need a global pandemic as business partner).

Five of our eight upstairs studios are now almost certainly let, and another two in the offing. We have one room identified as a possible shared studio but at present its hard to know if this will be as viable as it might have been four months ago. We are keen to gauge interest so please do get in touch if you think it might suit you, otherwise we might let it as a single space if there seems more demand for that. It can comfortably accommodate 4 desk spaces with 2m distancing.

On the ground floor FAYAP are still all set to take on the old saloon bar, but the timing of their opening will be dependent on how the social distancing guidelines evolve, and what restrictions there are for groups and young people.

We expect to have 3 ground floor rooms for short hire: the old lounge bar will work well as an events room for a medium sized group and is provisionally already booked for a week in August. This room would likely be hired by the week, day or part day. We need to work out the market and demand. There will also probably be two smallish short-hire rooms for e.g. meetings, tutoring, counselling or art work. We want to keep them clean but not be precious about them (i.e. semi-art-school-vibe). They are rooms we have made out of the old ladies and gents loos – surprisingly good and odour free!

We will also be using the entrance hall as a pop-up exhibition space but won’t be rushing in with any of that yet.

We hope to set up a new website in the next month or so which will link to an online booking platform for the short-hire rooms. In the meantime please just email us if you are interested in using these as it helps us to gauge demand and we can explain likely pricing.

Ciao ciao…

May Day!

We aren’t really in distress…. Happy May Day!

But the world has certainly changed since our last proper update 3 months ago.

We were hoping to open this month – that is cloud-cuckoo-land now. But after some recent weeks of complete inactivity on site we have started with just a few people so that work can slowly progress where social distancing guidelines allow. The building is large enough that individual trades can have rooms to themselves.

Hopefully the courtyard garden works can start soon – we had hoped to be planting this at Easter but fingers crossed it won’t be mid July now!

We had a setback with our new water supply in the early days of the lockdown when a resident (identity unknown) seems to have threatened the waterboard for carrying out their work and hounded them off the street. So unfortunately the road closure is having to be rescheduled; it’s a real shame as it will probably cause much more irritation to the Fram community than if it had been carried out on the original date when the roads were very quiet. Apologies in advance.

As to the likely actual opening date.. we had assumed mid-May but we think we will probably be 5 weeks or so from resumption of relatively ‘normal’ working conditions to have the building openable – but of course we are all a bit uncertain as to when public buildings and cafes can open again.

But long term plans haven’t changed, and those who have already expressed serious interest in being part of the club or renting a studio still seem to have undiminished appetite – for which thanks.

We also have a bit more news to share in the near future about some positive ‘mission creep’ which we committed to before the lockdown era… but that can wait for now.

It’s all fine really as long as we can keep paying the bills!

with best wishes to everyone!

February already…

Building works are progressing well and the building will hopefully open in May.

The club will house:

– a cafe run by The Common Room, an existing and popular cafe in Framlingham, which will occupy the old bar, to be served by an enlarged kitchen. By moving to the club the Common Room will have much larger floorspace than its existing premises. The Common Room will be accessed via the currently blocked front door to the club, but we will provide an accessible route via a new courtyard garden entrance

– a new office and meeting room to be taken by Framlingham Town Council (opening at the start of April). This will give the council more space than their current office and is well positioned for the local community and visitors to Framlingham, being half way between Framlingham’s Market Hill and Framlingham Castle. The office and meeting room will be on the ground floor so there will be greatly improved accessibility.

– a youth room in the old saloon bar to be taken by Framlingham youth organisation FAYAP; this would be used by FAYAP as base for work with young people – a space for social activity, mentoring and creative computer courses, to supplement the existing provision at the FAYAP centre on the Thomas Mills High School site, and in addition to the new pavilion at the Pageant Field. In the mornings the youth room may be available to other community groups to book. 

– meeting rooms for hire: there will be one or two rooms which might be rented by the hour or day, and there has been interest in these being used for exhibitions, poetry readings, art classes, business meetings or community meetings, private events or small parties and wakes (potentially catered for by the Common Room). These rooms will be smaller than the ‘large rooms’ available for hire elsewhere in the town, so providing different options and more variety for the growing town rather than competing with what exists already.

– there is also one 2 bedroom flat, which is being let.

 In addition there will be several studios/offices mostly in more private areas on upper floors which will variously be able to house:

–  co-working space (i.e. a rented desk space in a shared office), which might suit freelancers or self-employed people who would enjoy the sociable side of a shared office space more than working at the kitchen table at home.
–  art studios: we have three artists and an art therapist who have worked in the club for the last 6 months and are keen to stay – but there will be space for more after we have done the building work
–  creative office space: there has been recent interest from writers, photographers, film production and branding/design businesses but we have not really marketed these spaces yet and plan to progress this in the spring if people haven’t found us by then.
 The exact mix of these will depend on what local market there is and may change over time. We want to remain flexible. Anyone interested in renting a studio, several rooms or simply a desk in a shared room please get in touch by email.

Six Month Review

Over the last six months we have had eight artists in residence and a few more drop-ins here and there; they have made great things and we have been greatly boosted by the creative energy that they have brought to the club (and glad of income!).

Assuming all goes to plan, the longer term mix of life will have artists and creatives at the core, but with additional ingredients of good food, community provision and youth facilities. As and when details are finalised, we will share news.

We now have funds together to start serious building work so it will soon be a bit more obvious that something is actually happening with the club.

Planning Permission (phew)

We have now received Planning Permission and Listed Building Consent for the changes we want to make to the building and the way we want to use it, so all is still on track. Many thanks to all those who have supported our applications and helped us along the way.

The building works will be relatively modest but necessary and we hope to have them completed by Easter or thereabouts. We are arranging funds to start work, but now that we have our consents, hopeful that the loans can be increased…

We have had a lot of interest from people wanting to rent rooms/studios and plans for the cafe are all looking very hopeful (as many of you will have heard on the Fram grapevine). We’ll announce news as and when things are definite.

In the meantime, anyone interested in renting or hiring rooms after Easter, please do drop us a line and we’ll get back to you about possible opportunities.

Ciao for now…

Open Day Post-Mortem

We had an amazing day on Thursday with a steady stream of interested folk coming through the door over the ten hours we were open. 

People weren’t quite sleeping out overnight to be first though the door, but the first knock came before St Michael’s church had finished tolling 10am. We then had an unrelenting flow of visitors which eased only briefly during the afternoon. By 8pm we were  being propped up by the bar and resident artists and visitors. It was a thoroughly positive day which brought some new interesting and  challenging ideas, but everyone was overwhelmingly positive. So thank you to everyone from Fram and roundabouts who came with such good energy and feedback.

We hope to progress a planning application and an application for listed building consent application fairly soon; we aren’t wanting to make any significant alterations to the building (nor can we afford to!) but we want to make some changes to improve accessibility and achieve a good balance of public and private uses, including cafe, studio space, offices, exhibition and group course space, co-working and meeting rooms for community use. 

4th July – Open Day

If you are interested in meeting us to discuss our emerging plans or any ideas you may have for the place, please do drop in any time between 10am and 8pm on Thursday 4th July.

Hope to see you!

June Update – and Open Day

Several artists are setting up studios in the building and the flat is again being lived in. From the outside it may not look like anything is happening, but new life is beginning.

A longer term mixed-use vision for the future of the club is taking shape, following plenty of interest from a wide range of people. We are currently discussing ideas for minor alterations to the building with East Suffolk Council and we hope to discuss emerging plans with the  community at an Open Day on Thursday 4th July.  Please put the date in your diary!