All of our members are improving local lives day in and day out. From the long established organisations to the brand new groups, they’ve all been set up to make life better for their service users and community. The voluntary and community sector (VCS) can whiz by at such a fast but exhilarating pace that we can forget to take five minutes peace for a cup of tea (milk, one sugar) let alone read through all the news and updates that ping into our inbox. We most definitely do not have the time to blow our own trumpets about the resilient and creative things we do to keep us delivering all the fantastic work.
It was because of this that we decided to set up our new Brew and a Blog; An inside glimpse into how other local organisations operate and tackle challenges all in the time it takes to sup a well earned brew. The thought behind this new members only feature was that we wished to compliment existing information bulletins by giving an insight into things you didn’t even know you wanted to read about! We want this to be the place where you find out that a hurdle that one organisation may have overcome could be pretty similar to a barrier you may be facing or that an organisation 5 miles away could offer the perfect partnership working solution.
So, pop the kettle on and take that five minutes now!
The Space @ Field Lane has just undergone a massive refurbishment thanks to the commitment and passion of its Trustee Committee. Their determination to see The Space being fully utilised as the community hub it should be has resulted in a huge amount of community support and financial backing from funders.
Working from an original quote of approximately £80,000, the committee soon discovered that, to make sure the refurbishment had maximum community impact, they were looking at a cost of more than half a million pounds.
To find out more about this amazing community development and the people who made it happen, Voluntary Action Calderdale spoke to Mary Green, a Trustee and Funding Coordinator for The Space @ Field Lane.
Mary, thank you for agreeing to be our first guest interview for Brew and a Blog! What is the history of The Space @ Field Lane?
The building, based on the Field Lane Estate, Rastrick, was built by the community for the community over 30 years ago and was a well used community centre for local residents but sadly closed its doors in 2011. Determined to not let a building with such potential sit unused, a group of local residents came together to breathe life and community spirit into it again! The Trustee Committee is now a constituted Charitable Incorporated Organisation (C.I.O) and has worked so hard to get The Space @ Field Lane to where it is today.
With the help and support of Calderdale’s Neighbourhood Co-ordinator Mags Bryson and Sophie Michelena from Locality, the committee spent 18 months negotiating with Calderdale Council for the lease of the premises. Transfers of Council assets into community hands being a relatively new concept, the original lease was more for a commercial premises so it took a lot of to-ing and fro-ing with Calderdale Council to finalise the details but in July 2017 we signed the lease and the building is now in the hands of our group, and therefore the community, for the next 125 years. Once we owned the lease, we could then start looking at developing the plan for the building and to sourcing the funding which would be necessary.
Why did you first join The Space @ Field Lane trustee committee?
I joined the committee in 2015. As a Rastrick resident, I wanted to get involved because I believe in community and community centres and couldn’t bear to think of this building sitting there unloved and unused at the centre of community with nothing for local residents to do and nowhere to go.
The trustee committee is made up of 8 people who have all been ready to take this project forward. It’s a great mix of people; everyone has such different and eclectic skill sets which work really well together and we share the same passion to turn this building back into the community hub it should be.
Volunteers have been golden in making this all happen. Everyone on the committee is a volunteer and at different stages of this journey, we’ve had invaluable contributions from past trustees and there will be lots of opportunities for people to step forward when the centre is open.
The refurbishment of the centre has recently been completed and will be officially soon! Firstly, a big congratulations! How has this journey been?
I would be lying if I said it had been easy! No one knows how far you will have to go with no guarantee but sometimes you just have to do it and look ahead. Always keep looking ahead.
The Committee were all so determined that this would happen that we jumped in feet first. A local engineer came and had an initial look at the building and said that, with a make do and mend approach and fixing up the essentials, we’d be looking at about £80-£100,000. However, every new professional that looked at the building would always give us another ‘Have you thought about this?’
A big decision for the Committee was which direction we wanted to take The Space @ Field Lane; a make do and mend on the essentials or a full refurbishment of the whole building. A general consensus was that a make do approach wouldn’t do the building justice and certainly wouldn’t do what is needed for the community. We decided on a full refurbishment knowing that the prize at the end would be so much greater.
Very exciting decision to benefit the whole community! So understandably a full refurbishment meant a lot more money than originally thought. How did you raise the funds?
Well yes exactly – Turned out that we needed about £524,000 just for the refurbishment! As a major part of our plans was the dream of a fantastic community hub, the committee had increased resolve to ensure it became a reality.
During the initial fundraising stages, we applied to funds and trusts to help with the refurbishment overheads; as the costings for the building kept going up, we kept applying for funding! Our fundraising goal was so large that we tended to not apply for funds less than £30,000 and concentrated on larger pots for the development of this project.
My background is in Sales Management so I took on the role of Funding Coordinator for The Space @ Field Lane but I never wrote a bid alone – it was very much a collaborative approach with the whole committee. We quickly learnt that with the more rushed, slapdash bids we submitted, we weren’t successful so we became more committed to why we were applying for the money and our end goal. It was about putting the time, effort and passion into every bid. The bids we submitted could take days (even weeks) of research to write and we would go through several drafts and tweaks with everyone given the opportunity to have some input.
We now have 4 main funders that have helped this happen:
– Tudor Trust
– The National Lottery Communities Fund
– Rastrick Big Local
– Garfield Weston Fund
We also entered a competition to win a ceiling! We weren’t terribly optimistic about the outcome, but we won a brand new ceiling from Armstrongs, worth about £12,000!
The money we have raised so far is just the start for The Space @ Field Lane and, once the building is open to the community, there will be a lot more grassroots community fundraising activities to keep the centre growing. As part of the Community Foundation for Calderdale #iwill Youth Social Action Fund we had local teens as community engagement champions. They raised £90 for us by selling at a charity market various items they had collected from friends and family. That £90 was like gold to us as it was so beautifully done and reflected the local community spirit that propelled this passion project forward in the first place. The young people, in conjunction with their Youth Workers, also organised the really successful and first ever Field Lane Fun Day last May. And on top of that, they cooked and served a meal to fifteen senior citizens on the estate at Christmas. It was so fabulous to see the young people in action.
Through our links with Sophie at Locality we are part of the Community Anchors network which has been really useful to meet likeminded organisations and share ideas, good practice and upcoming funding pots. We have also had fantastic support from the Brighouse Rotary Club and Together Housing and there was a real buzz in the community about the development and refurb especially as they could see that the workmen were there; the power of intrigue!
Definitely! The Space @ Field Lane will have it’s grand opening on Saturday 7th September and you and the rest of the Trustee Committee have done a fantastic job making it all happen! Do you have any other advice for other organisations around applying for funding?
Keep pushing forward. If you could make something happen that would benefit your community and you have the passion to make sure it happens then what is there to lose?
Try not to complete funding bids in isolation from the rest of your group. You are all working towards the same goal and someone may contribute an idea or angle that you hadn’t even thought of. A team effort helps everyone feel valued and part of the process and journey.
Think big. We wanted to ensure that The Space @ Field Lane was accessible to all so knew we wanted to add a Changing Places accessible toilet facility. It is the only one in a public building in Calderdale outside the centre of Halifax. I had read in the newspaper about older children, teenagers and adults having to be changed on the floor of public conveniences and was horrified so felt we had to do something. It actually delayed our project because we had to wait to get this additional funding approved by the National Lottery but once we knew about the move to get these facilities installed wherever possible, how could we not go for it.
If you hit a barrier to something, challenge it. The Big Lottery Fund we applied for was postcode specific and according to English Indices of Deprivation, Rastrick is not a deprived area so therefore didn’t qualify for the fund. The Field Lane Estate finds itself drawn into four other areas so the true nature of the estate does not show up in the figures. Another of our trustees challenged this with the National Lottery and after a number of phone calls and e-mails, the Lottery did agree to accept our application. It seemed an impossible task but my fellow trustee made it happen!
Thank you Mary. Can’t wait to visit The Space @ Field Lane when its officially open!
If you would like to keep up to date with all the developments at The Space @ Field Lane, please follow them on social media @spacefieldlane or visit the website www.thespaceatfieldlane.org.uk