PEOPLE who have put their heart and fundraising efforts into helping the dream of The ARK medical education centre become a reality enjoyed a milestone evening as the facility threw open its doors for the first of several celebration events.

ARK trustees, patrons and members of fundraising committees were all invited to have a good look around the new £4.5million complex at Basingstoke hospital.

The ARK Celebration Night on Tuesday was the first of a series of open evenings for long-standing supporters of the charity project which has finally come into being after years of hard work.

The guests were able to enjoy guided tours of the three-storey building which contains working hi-tech lecture theatres, seminar rooms, research offices, a 24-hour library, bistro and classrooms.

The building is already in use and on hand to inform and advise the visitors were some of the hospital's top physicians and surgeons.

ARK appeals office co-ordinator Ingrid Carding said: "There will be more evenings for all the people who have so generously supported us, but we can only accommodate so many on one occasion."

Guests were greeted by liver cancer surgeon Myrddin Rees, the driving force behind The ARK project.

He said: "We are just having a celebratory drink now that The ARK has opened.

"The official opening of the complex will have to come later."

Most of the work on the building is now finished, but the naming of seats in the lecture theatre, provided by individual donors, has yet to be completed.

Also, work has not yet finished on the spectacular water feature planned for the lobby.

Mr Rees said a £250,000 programme of fundraising will continue to allow poorly-funded community-based groups to use The ARK for learning about particular areas of illness or care.