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First glimpse at what's in store for Great Yarmouth's former M&S as doors re-open

PUBLISHED: 18:21 02 April 2019 | UPDATED: 18:37 02 April 2019

The Marks and Spencer store in the town centre in Great Yarmout before it closed and moved to the out of town Gapton Hall Retail Park. 

Picture: James Bass

The Marks and Spencer store in the town centre in Great Yarmout before it closed and moved to the out of town Gapton Hall Retail Park. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk © 2014

Four years after it closed its doors Great Yarmouth's much-loved M&S is set to re-open on Saturday - as a gallery.

The former M&S store in Great Yarmouth is re-opening as a temporary gallery Picture: ArchantThe former M&S store in Great Yarmouth is re-opening as a temporary gallery Picture: Archant

The building, shuttered and empty, in the heart of pedestrianised King Street has long been a source of frustration.

But this weekend people will again be able to revisit the familiar space whose closure dealt such a blow to the town centre.

Original Projects, a Great Yarmouth-based arts organisation, is staging a trio of exhibitions there as part of the retail hub’s effort to redefine itself.

Kaavous Clayton, co-director, said after a long period of negotiation he was handed the keys at 4pm on Monday and was now pulling out all the stops to be ready for Saturday.

Under a “meanwhile” lease the charity would have to move out if a permanent, commercial tenant was found.

Kaavous Clayton, co-director of Original Projects with a vending machine with a difference in Great Yarmouth's former M&S store Picture: ArchantKaavous Clayton, co-director of Original Projects with a vending machine with a difference in Great Yarmouth's former M&S store Picture: Archant

But Mr Clayton and partner Julia Devonshire, have high hopes of bringing ambitious shows and exhibitions to the former department store for as long as it lasts.

He said at first only the front section would be open, with access from King Street.

One of the exhibitions called The Annotated Reader comprises 281 texts billed as “a unique snapshot of what hundreds of inspiring and creative people throughout the world are preoccupied with in 2018.”

There will also be examples of Chinese paper cutting.

The former M&S store in Great Yarmouth is re-opening on centre as a temporary gallery Picture: ArchantThe former M&S store in Great Yarmouth is re-opening on centre as a temporary gallery Picture: Archant

Mr Clayton said Great Yarmouth was “ahead of the game” when it came to reanimating the town centre.

“It already has a fantastic entertainment offer,” he said. “It’s just split between the seafront and town centre.

“The more that is going on the more reasons there are to come here.”

He said a big painting show and a work focusing on scale with Merrivale Model Village and writer Will Self were also in the pipeline.

Original Projects has been operating from an empty office further along King Street.

The M&S store in King Street Great Yarmouth was a big draw for shoppers 

Picture: James BassThe M&S store in King Street Great Yarmouth was a big draw for shoppers Picture: James Bass

Marks and Spencer closed its doors in January 2015 after 104 years of serving customers in the town.

The day after it shut it opened its food store in Gapton Hall.

At the time the move was criticised by many people who were sad to see it go, with other names disappearing from the high street in its wake.

In 2017 it was up for sale at auction with a guide price of £650,000 but failed to sell.

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