Wisbech college students weep over plan to switch course to King’s Lynn

STUDENTS at the Isle Campus in Wisbech have been devastated by sweeping cuts which could see their much-loved musical theatre course moved to King’s Lynn.

Proposals to relocate the course to the College of West Anglia’s King’s Lynn campus were announced to tearful students on Monday.

The Isle Campus performing arts studio is set to be demolished as part of a �7million plan to build a new technology centre and motorsports workshop - the biggest single investment at the campus since the 60s.

Student Liam Nixon, 16, said: “We were right in the middle of launching our yearly musical when they told us. A lot of people in the room were in tears - even people who are leaving this year.

“We were all really emotional because this course means so much to us. The campus studio has been like our second home.”

The move will affect at least 25 students who are currently studying for a diploma in performing arts - a course that has been running in Wisbech for 17 years. Students fear it could also mean the end for the Nine Lives Theatre Company.

Becky Best, 17, is in her final year of the course. She said: “When I came on this course I had no confidence.

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“I came to improve my singing and acting skills but I also made new friends, built my confidence and found myself really. It’s just appalling what’s happening.”

Principal David Pomfret said the proposals were “absolutely a direct response” to a �3million cut in government funding.

He said: “It is unfortunately impossible to avoid some impact on the breadth of course provision across our campuses.

“Accordingly, we have looked closely at programmes, such as performing arts, that are delivered in two locations and this, along with the associated costs, has been a significant factor in developing the proposals.

The principal said the move would “enable us to continue to offer a broad range of courses to both Fenland and West Norfolk students in a cost-effective way”.

He said: “Although the different location will undoubtedly cause inconvenience for some students, if the proposals are confirmed, the college will ensure that transport to King’s Lynn is arranged for the duration of their course at no additional cost to the affected students.

“The musical theatre course has a strong link with the Angles Theatre in Wisbech and we have already spoken to the theatre management about the proposals. During the consultation period, we will be exploring with them options for maintaining those links.

“We understand that the students are upset by the proposals and we will be meeting with them again next week to discuss their concerns.”

A 28-day consultation period has now begun, with an online petition protesting against the move already attracting dozens of signatures.

Mature student Lucinda Morton said: “I have a stammer and this course has helped me get up on stage and act. Before I joined, I had a dream of being in a musical but I had a very bad stammer. Now, I’ve been in 15 shows.”

First year student Heaven King, 19, said: “One thing that really proves how much people love this course is that one of our tutors used to be on it.

“They would be tearing a family of students apart and we would lose the tutors that we know and love.”