THE Beecroft Art Gallery in Westcliff could get a new home at Southend's Central Library, it has been revealed.

Southend Council has set aside £150,000 to investigate the proposals to shift the gallery, opposite the Cliffs Pavilion, into the library in Victoria Avenue.

Derek Jarvis, Southend councillor responsible for culture and tourism, said:
“We have for some time been looking seriously at the possibility of relocating the Beecroft Art Gallery to Central Library as one of its future uses, and have been allocated £150,000 in the capital budget to explore this in more detail.”

Mr Jarvis spoke after a group of conservationists and artists put forward plans to convert Central Library into a gallery and arts centre when the Forum opens.

The library would be renamed The Beecroft Centre and would include galleries, a community centre, and maybe space for shops and businesses. The plan is spearheaded by Mark Sharp, Patsy Link and Sheena Walker from campaign group SKIPP, and backed by artists John Bulley, Les Shaw and Vin Harrop.

The group describes the centre as “the place where students, artists and the general public would meet and mix.”

They state that the new centre “would be a solution to the current problem that the Beecroft collections are housed in a dilapidated building with inadequate space to exhibit them.”

The centre aims to lease retail units in the basement and on the first floor, as well as a tourist information office. The group hopes the retail units will attract specialty stores selling artists’ materials, but will also be targeting fashion retail stores and names such as Caffe Nero.