£5.6m Newbridge Memo makeover gets under way
The first phase of £5.6m of work to restore an art deco hall for use as a community venue is due to start.
Scaffolding is set to go up at the Grade II listed Newbridge Memorial Hall, known as the Memo, in Caerphilly county.
It follows an eight-year fundraising campaign by the hall's trustees and will eventually see the building restored to its former glory.
Caerphilly council said it was "delighted" work was underway.
The plight of the Newbridge Memo won national recognition when it was runner-up in the BBC's Restoration series.
Howard Stone, the hall's chairman, said it marked a "big day" in the eight-year campaign to bring it up to modern standards.
He told BBC Wales: "We are thrilled to bits to see things moving along.
"It's what we have been waiting for and when people see the scaffolding go up, they will believe work is finally going ahead.
"We are aiming for completion in the last quarter of 2013, with an official opening to coincide with the centenary of the start of World War I in 2014."
The first phase of the work will see new windows on the upper floor of the institute replaced and double-glazed.
Work will then begin to repair the roof and stop leaks which have caused damage in various rooms, including the ballroom, over the last year.
The main phase of work will begin in May with the demolition of part of the original building and then a new-build to house various new services and office space.
The ground floor will be opened up and restored to provide a new library and IT suite for the area. Mr Stone said that, despite local authority cuts, the future of the new library was assured.
A later phase will see the restoration of the Memo's auditorium.
Ron Davies, Caerphilly council's cabinet member for regeneration and planning, said: "We are delighted to be working closely with the trustees to bring about the long-awaited regeneration of the Memo and Institute.
"The financial protocol agreed recently by cabinet will help progress the restoration works and provide much needed support for the small group of dedicated volunteers who are driving this scheme forward.
"I now look forward to seeing this historic venue restored to its former glory."
It is the town's main community building, providing facilities for 20 local groups and societies as well as hosting live music and community events.
It was built by miners in 1925 to commemorate members of the local community who lost their lives in WWI.
Its supporters say it is one of the UK's finest surviving early 20th century art deco cinema theatres, and claim it houses the largest ballroom in the south Wales valleys.
Entertainers such as Joe Loss, Clara Novello, Tom Jones, the Stranglers and Manic Street Preachers are all reported to have played there.
In 2006 Prince Charles made a special request to visit the building and threw his weight behind the restoration project, which won £129,600 in Heritage Lottery Fund cash in 2009.