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Action Group minutes April 2007

1. Progress Reports

Experience of/contact with other villages. Guy Duxbury had contacted by telephone several villages suggested by Voluntary Action Cumbria. Everyone he contacted had been very helpful, and were all willing to welcome people from Threlkeld in person if we wanted to visit. Some were new schemes, some were refurbishment, some had been completed, others were still in preparation. All were financed or hoping to be financed by securing grants 0f £180,000 upwards; and all stressed how difficult it was to obtain grants of this sort, especially from the Lottery Fund etc, with initial applications often being rejected (in one case the Lottery Fund had appointed an advisor to assist with the re-submission of a grant application).

Herbert & Eileen Witherington had been in touch with Portinscale Village Hall, where comprehensive improvements and repairs have been carried out financed by local fund raising efforts and voluntary labour. They had had a succession of funding bids turned down.

It was decided that:

We would arrange for a few people to visit Gamblesby, where the village hall has been renovated in a way which is similar to what we have in mind, to pick up ideas and experience - Guy Duxbury will arrange this, just a few people in a car we must make sure our own bid for funding is very fully supported with evidence of local need and support.

Contact with village organisations
Steven Oldfield and Ron Horne had gone through the bookings register and listed all the various activities which the Public Room has been used for over the last few years. They had also drawn up a questionnaire on present and future use which has been sent to all village organisations. A lot of responses to this have already been received. It was stressed how important this information is to the grant application - we need to be able to show ery clearly that the facility will be used intensively by local people.

It was agreed that we will:

  • Chase up the rest of the questionnaires (we can do a plug in Beneath Blencathra for any which are still missing) and pull the information together - Steven Oldfield/Ron Horne
  • Organise some form of survey to get evidence of the "unorganised" demand eg for private parties - Trevor Roberts to discuss this with Steven and Ron

New, possibly commercial activities

Pre-school group Jane Roberts had looked into this and talked to the people in Penruddcok where the pre school group was set up in 1998 and runs in their village hall. There seemed to be a demand in the village (Sandra Hewitson, Alison Critchlow and Una Cowper confirmed this) - children are currently going to groups in Keswick (where they often have to go in the afternoons which is unsatisfactory) and Penruddock (which has grown from about half a dozen to 18 children). There is also likely to be demand from surrounding areas and even from Keswick. So the option is viable so long as it can be developed and properly organised; if successful this would occupy the village hall for five mornings per week during term time. Information obtained indicated that the space available is more than adequate, although storage space would be a factor to take into account. However, although a pre-school group would be self financing and would provide a valuable community facility, it will not be a commercial proposition for the village hall itself over and above that.

It was agreed that:

  • This was a valuable facility which we should aim to develop in Threlkeld in conjunction with revitalisation of the village hall
  • Provision for a pre-school group should be built into the brief (this does not seem to involve anything very special other than adequate storage space for equipment etc)
  • We will need to demonstrate clearly why a pre-school group relies on a revitalised hall and finds the existing premises unsuitable.

Coffee shop/gallery Sue Foster had looked into this principally by talking to the owners of the gallery in Uldale. They stressed the significance of "through traffic" of visitors (where Threlkeld scores heavily over Uldale); and good signs. "Crafts" were more popular and profitable than "art". On the basis of her discussions, Sue felt that a similar facility in Threlkeld could be a commercial proposition and support at least one full time person. This view was generally supported, and it was agreed that:

  • The coffee/bar gallery idea would be included in the brief for the scheme, but in such a way (ideally on a second floor) that it did not exclude community activities
  • Although it would bring in income from visitors, it would be a very useful local facility and would complement other activities at the village hall, making it much more of a social centre
  • Although we do not at this stage have to make any decisions about how a coffee shop/gallery might be managed, it seemed preferable to manage it directly (ie a paid manager/staff would run it, but any profit would go directly into the village hall funds - or of course any loss covered by village hall funds) rather than let it out as a concession (ie someone would take on this facility and pay a fixed but guaranteed sum to village hall funds).

Mini-gym Jane Roberts reported on behalf of Jo Alberti, who had explored this suggestion. Basically a mini-gym is a small room with exercise equipment, and people seem prepared to pay significant sums of money to use such a facility, often on an individual basis. There were issues of insurance, but these could probably be overcome in some way. It is also unclear how such a facility would be managed - however there are various options, and we could probably work something out. The attraction of the facility is that, as well as providing what will be a useful additional facility in the village hall, the amount of money it could generate could be significant, because we could charge a larger amount than for most other functions. It looked as though it would cost about £2000 to equip it. The issue at this stage is whether a space should be allocated dedicated to this use to the exclusion of other uses (with fixed equipment in it). After a good discussion it was agreed that:

  • A mini gym would be a useful and commercially attractive facility, and provision for it should be built into the brief
  • It would need an appropriately sized, lockable room where equipment could be fixed on a pretty permanent basis, although removable if ever this were necessary
  • We can probably get some form of special grant for the equipment, so this cost does not have to be included in the main renovation scheme, although the space does
  • Showers and changing space in the toilets would be useful in support of this facility
  • An appropriate form of management would be needed, and any problems of insurance, indemnity etc sorted out.

Overnight "camping" There is a demand for this use from various groups eg scouts. They basically do not want more than floor space, but kitchen and/or showers are a definite bonus. We can use the village hall for this purpose on up to 28 days per year. We should assume some subsidiary use of this nature to supplement the income, and to assist it (in an increasingly competitive world) the brief for the renovation scheme should incorporate showers. The availability of the Public Room for this purpose already can be advertised on the new website.

New Threlkeld website

Steve Dobbins/Caroline Greenway had volunteered to set up and manage a new website for the village. Although this approach had been prompted by the moves to revitalise the village hall, the idea had developed into something broader, covering village events, activities, news etc. Their offer has been formally and gratefully accepted by the Parish Council and the website is already operational as our "official" community website, due to properly announced in the next Beneath Blencathra. It can be seen at Steve and Caroline would welcome any feedback and suggestions, it is still in its early stages. But it already contains masses of useful information, and a discussion forum which will hopefully attract some of the younger people who are more used to "on line" discussion.

Contact with the school
Mrs Horder is being kept in the picture about the project, and has sent in information about potential school use. The schoolchildren are also being encouraged via the School Council to come up with ideas for use and revitalisation of the village hall. Interest has already been expressed in the mini-gym, and internet room and sale of local produce.

2. Fund raising

We have established a target of raising £15000 completely locally, outside any money generated by grant applications. This fundraising has to be over and above the normal Public Room fundraising activities, and without treading on the toes of the fundraising activities of local organisations. The Parish Council has been asked to establish a separate account where funds raised can be lodged.

Significant progress towards the target has already been made:

  • Herbert Witherington reported that the Threlkeld Art Society had the previous week decided to wind up (after 50 years in existence). It had resolved to donate its remaining funds (estimated at £750-1000) to the village hall revitalisation fund.
  • The Public Room Committee has decided that the money raised via the sale of the recipe book and from a special "tea" session should go to the fund.
  • The Threlkeld Sports Pavilion has made a donation of £2000 to the fund.

These donations are all received with gratitude. They really "kick start" more active fundraising efforts.

Dot Benson had organised a meeting of several people to generate fund raising ideas, and circulated their list of suggestions. These were pretty well without exception regarded as good ideas, well worth developing. Activities can be spread out a bit, we have two years or maybe more to raise the money. After some discussion, we agreed (I think! - Trevor) to organise:

  • A treasure hunt, barbecue, summer/craft fair and dance during the day and into the evening on Saturday 18 August 2007
  • A promises auction, to be held in Spring 2008, but work towards this starting now
  • A village pantomime to be put on by people from the village - Jon Trotman to be contacted about this, he is apparently willing to try to put this together
  • Producing a collection of products with local Threlkeld references for sale - tea shirts, mugs, postcards - Steve Dobbins volunteered to look into ways of getting these produced on the internet
  • One off events which people have had experience of setting up (provided these do not duplicate fundaising by other organisations) - racehorse night (this could be in the village hall with a temporary licence), Body Shop Party, clairvoyant night etc.
  • A winter supper/dinner dance, with live music
  • "begging letters" to firms and individuals for donations - this should be deferred until the plans are a bit clearer, but is definitely worth doing; similarly getting sponsors for specific things in the new village hall
  • Various other sugegstions which can be organised if there are people keen to do it eg cookery classes, taking a stall at the Keswick Victorian Fair etc.

All these ideas are to be developed and organised by Dot Benson and the fundraising group (Sandra Hewitson, Pat Knifton, Una Cowper, Sarah Bennett, Ros Shirreff); although it is likely they are going to need help, and anyone prepared to get involved in this important and hopefully enjoyable activity should contact Dot. The main immediate emphasis is to sort out the event on 18 August so that this can be publicised soon.

3. Architects Brief

Jon Trotman, Alison Critchlow and Trevor Roberts have drawn up a brief for the overall renovation scheme. This incorporates all the specific suggestions which have been made about the use and style of the building; and although it is based on retention of the existing basic structure and character, it is assuming the possibilities of creating a second floor, extending at the back, and dormer windows in the roof. Generally we are aiming for flexible space - large and small rooms, with the larger room probably capable of being subdivided. The public toilets will remain separate (there had been a suggestion they be incorporated).

Architects will be invited to submit proposals for how they would approach and what they would charge for doing a feasibility study of this scheme. The idea is that they would produce proposals and plans for discussion and then develop these (and cost them) up to a point where they can form the basis of a full scale grant application.

This feasibility study will cost money and a grant application has already been made for enough ( £5250) to cover this - we should be informed of the outcome of this application within the next couple of months, in the meantime we will have decided on three or four firms of architects to invite to submit proposals, and also talked to all of them since it is important we involve architects with a good "feel" for this type of work.

4. Next meeting

Everyone needs to get on and do things following this meeting. If there are any problems get in touch with Trevor Roberts ( who will try to coordinate things. Also it is likely that Dot Benson and her group will need some assistance in developing and organising the fundraising activity, so don't be shy about getting involved in this.

NB People receiving these notes who were not at the meeting and who would like to get involved with any of these, either contact the person named as responsible directly; or alternatively, if you want to get allocated to something specific, contact Trevor Roberts.

The next full meeting has been scheduled for 4 July at 7.30pm in the Public Room.

The meeting was closed at 9.10pm. Everyone was thanked for their enthusiastic and positive contributions.

Trevor Roberts (Chair), Dot Benson, Guy Duxbury, Sylvia Tuer, Pat Knifton, Steven Oldfield, Carolyn Cripps, Jane Roberts, John Knifton, Alison Critchlow, Sue Foster, Herbert & Eileen Witherington, Ros Shirreff, Sandra Hewitson, Steve Dobbins, Caroline Greenway, Una Cowper, Ron Horne.

Jon Trotman, Jo Alberti, Gillian Winter, Trevor & Diane Robson, Roger Bragg

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