‘There’s always something going on at the Castle’ is the new strapline for Bude’s favourite building. When I arrived, it was literally true. A glass balustrade was being added to the bandstand, and the building is being re-pointed.
Once inside, there is also a difference. Somehow, it has come alive. For years, the Castle has been a comfortable place but like a pair of old slippers, not terribly exciting or innovative. This is changing and you feel it as soon as you walk in. The old shop area is being made into a studio, and the place somehow looks more colourful.
Talking with the Manager, Mark Berridge, who also manages the Library and Information Service, it seems the addition of colour has been a conscious decision. When Mark and his team arrived, it was pretty white and sterile-looking inside the Castle, which works for the galleries as the art is the key feature, but not in places like the cafe. Mark put his graphic design skills to good use designing logos and having an eye to what looks good – and there is a definite improvement.
The cafe now has deep lilac tones, with logos, and the menu has also changed. It is now turning in a profit which is going back into the development of the Castle running costs. The aim is to make the Castle a neutral cost-centre for the council. They now offer vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free items, and specials. Also, buffet menus are available for corporate events.
I asked Mark about his vision for the building which, for many years, local people have felt was under-utilised. His mantra “there’s always something going on at the Castle” stems from his desire to make it a dynamic community space, and cultural hub; this is what drives Mark’s thinking. Like a dog with a bone, he keeps pushing to fulfil his vision.
The galleries are fine art based but he also wants to attract crafters to run workshops so people can learn new skills and have fun. The new studio area will be ideal for this as it will have a stone floor and a sink. The Studio will be for hire. Costs around £50 a day, or if a series of workshops, £40 a day – we’re thinking batik, tie-dye, aromatherapy, wet felt making, soothing hand massage, Feng Shui, crystal healing and many more. The Castle is to be a place for everyone to enjoy!
Talking batik, Earth Festival has a free drop-in session along with whale willow weaving and other activities and talks.
The Castle now has a wedding coordinator, Katie (Mark believes in using the skills, talents and interests of the staff). They are looking to develop more celebrant weddings, civil ceremonies, and handfastings. The Conservatory area is licensed for weddings so provides an all year round sea view wedding venue. They are looking into sunset weddings, rather weather dependent but if you strike lucky, it’s an amazing sight; also winter ones. The recent wedding fayre was a great success. The volume of people was great, and exhibitors did well for bookings.
Excitingly Earth Day happens soon. It is just right for Bude. Organised on a shoestring, it is being driven by Carolyn. There are now a number of talks in the teepee and the Castle and they’d love to make it a more regular event if successful, so please go along and give them your support.
Gardening & outdoors
Mark is keen to promote the idea of a community space. The 1st Bude Beavers, Cubs and Scouts are adopting a flower bed by the library to maintain, and he has a few regulars helping out with the gardens and promoting their own health through nature. Being outdoors is wonderful for mental health so get involved. There are plans for outdoor events such as theatre and outdoor cinema when available. The Bandstand is also going to be a timetabled space for groups like yoga, Tai Chi, parent and toddler groups, even perhaps birthday parties or family gatherings. He hopes to get some fairy lights to add atmosphere, which will be removed after an event.
Evening lectures & literary plans
One thing people often say down here is that they miss education, lectures, and culture. This may just be about to change. Mark, a keen Egyptologist, is keen to have a series of evening lectures. The cafe would be open and a small charge would be levied. So, if you know anyone passionate (and very well informed) about their subject, do get in touch. Suggestions so far include the aforementioned Egyptology, but also feminism in art and the cosmos. I mentioned my heartfelt love of literary festivals, and Mark is already on the case. He says the plan is for October 2020 to run a literary festival, with the library staff also on board. This is very exciting – and no, it won’t clash with the much larger Appledore Festival, but everything starts somewhere.
Janine oversees the heritage work at the Castle After the train/rail exhibition moves, they are focusing on lesser-known medieval North Cornwall. There are also plans for interactive displays, and the fossil fish may even come alive. So, plenty of excitement to watch out for!
Finally, a word for Bude & Stratton Town Council. Mark says the Council has so far been really positive and supportive of ideas and the vision, and seem pleased with how it is developing. He also thanked the Clerk and the Facilities Manager – all in all, there seems to be some great teamwork going on which is good for Bude.