New team leading the way at Kennaway House

New Kennaway House manager, Nikki Dawkins, with Michael James, David Leach, Bryan Dawkins and Michae

New Kennaway House manager, Nikki Dawkins, with Michael James, David Leach, Bryan Dawkins and Michael Gordon-Lee. Ref shs 4446-47-15AW. Picture: Alex Walton - Credit: Archant

A new manager and chairman have taken the helm at a charity-run arts centre with a growing reputation in and beyond the Sid Valley.

The new manager of Kennaway House is Nikki Dawkins, who has run a conference centre in Cornwall and most recently worked as deputy manager of the TRIP charity in Honiton.

And the trustees have elected Michael Gordon-Lee, an artist and sculptor who has been ‘instrumental’ in establishing the centre as a gallery, as their chairman.

Kennaway House is open to the public nearly every day, displaying the work of artists, interspersed with increasingly ambitious exhibitions.

Dr Michael James, the founder of Kennaway House and now its president, said: “We have great confidence that Michael and Nikki, with David Leach, who has been with us as premises manager almost from the beginning, will form a strong team to develop the work of the house, particularly the gallery, and take it to a higher level.”

Diana Bowerman is retiring after two years running the house and remains a trustee. Dr James said: “Di has done a great job - increasing both the use of the house and its income. We are very grateful to her.”

Nikki said: “I know it is going to be a challenge, but a worthwhile one.

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“Within my new role, I would like to make sure that the house runs smoothly and efficiently with a very warm welcome to all those who come through the door. The house has a lot to offer and just needs a helping hand with its future.”

Church House was nearly derelict in 2001, but still well-used. A new group of trustees stepped in the next year to try to save it, applying for grants and appealing to the public to cover restoration costs estimated at £1million.

It was renamed Kennaway House after a public ballot in the Herald and the restoration was completed in April 2009.