AN art gallery team has been left devastated and forced to pick up a £1,000 bill after damage was caused to their pop-up gallery days before it was due to open.

We are the Minories, which is part of The Minories based on East Hill, Colchester, had been looking forward to bringing its pop-up gallery to the former Holland and Barrett shop on Long Wyre Street.

But days after getting the keys landlords contacted the team amid concerns windows at the site were open.

When the We are the Minories team visited the site they found the door locked.

After gaining access thanks to Essex Police the team found the rooms had been left in a disgusting state.

A fundraiser has now been launched to help get the gallery ready to open on time.

Jade Fothergill, who manages the gallery, said the group believes squatters had got into the building.

She said: “There is rubbish everywhere, graffiti on the walls, broken internal doors and a huge amount of items to take away including a TV, hot-plate, CD player, lamps, bedding, clothes and food.

“We have made the unit as secure as possible but are very concerned that this will happen again.

“This is not only extremely unsettling and upsetting but has set us back considerably and will add at least an extra £1,000 to the costs of making the unit safe and accessible, which we estimate to be around £10,000.

“Unlike other organisations in the town, we have no sustainable income and do not enjoy any core-cost funding from local authorities or national grant-makers.

“We have to fundraise for everything we do and in order to serve the community we desperately need the support of the community.”

Essex Police were called to the shop following reports of criminal damage.

A 31-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage, abstract use of electricity without authority and burglary dwelling with intent to cause damage.

He has since been released and will face no further action.