OHMG – The Story – Part Five – Conclusion.

If you have read the previous articles you may remember that by 2004 , Eastington Community Project Working Group, a newly formed Committee (2002) were working flat out to raise money for a new Community Centre.

Local grants had been applied for and the first grant that came through was from the SDC Rural Regeneration Fund, imagine that Woo Hoo moment when we got the letter granting us £40,000, a seemingly immense sum. The Parish Council gave a grant of £30,000, a lot of money for them, and a previous S106 sum of £17,000 was agreed for the project. We then achieved a firm funding grant from the Charlie Bullock trust for £70,000, probably a clincher for future grant givers.

Meanwhile there is always a spanner about to throw itself into the works and ours was the Joint Charity Scheme. This was set up when the land was bequest in 1989. The Parish Council at this time were managing the Village Hall and then the new land. The Parish Council was already short of members so it was decided to adopt both assets under a joint charity scheme in order to simplify things. It was a good solution at the time. However from a fundraising perspective for a new Centre it complicated things and had to be addressed. One of the Committee members spent a lot of time sorting that one out and eventually the two facilities were separated to become individual charities.

After many more funding applications the Landfill tax credit grant makers started to take interest. First it was £15,000 then another £25,000, it was looking good. These were from the Ibstock Cory and the Cory Environmental Trusts. These Trusts had the same administrator; a wonderful lady who gave us so much support and advice. We’d jumped through a lot of hoops to get these grants and they were very supportive of the project, unlike the Biffaward….

We applied for the Biffaward, another LFT, never again! The form filling and supporting documents required can only be described as madness and that was just to get through round one. At the beginning of August (when everyone is on holiday, ta for that) the administrator sent a request for more supporting documents to include; letters of support from existing users and from potential users to be returned within 10 days – what? We called her about the short notice; apparently she had ‘internal deadlines’. Should we just give up on it? No we would not as this application was for £50,000 and so much time and energy had already been invested in the application, we had to see it through.
The word went out… By the end of that day letters flooded in, who would have thought that the Eastington Model Makers Club were desperate to use the new centre, not to mention the WI, Ballroom dancing, a knitting circle and so on. Sadly no Eastington Model Makers Club ever did use the Centre, I was looking forward to that, but well done everyone because we got the grant.

The grant awards were going well and publicity about this new build Community Centre was increasing. But with all of this success there was still a very big shortfall. The original target was £250,000 but double that if you wanted the multi-use facility that was now planned.

At this point the Committee made the very brave decision to start the works. One Committee member said that if we could just build the shell and make the ground floor work then funders would see that it was a reality and would support it further. He was absolutely right.

In 2007 the preparatory works started with the site positioning of the new centre, trial pits were dug and soil samples collected. Meetings were held weekly in a dining room with the Architect, the main project manager and crucial committee members. The complexities of building it were innumerable; structural engineers, site inspections, building control, planning, utilities, it all had to be sorted out.

The actual building works commenced in 2008, very exciting, followed by a not so exciting recession. We had been promised the ‘section 106’ moneys from the Bradestone Way development and we were getting very twitchy about this, would we lose that money? A lot of calls were made and the developer’s contact did pay the money over He had just been made redundant. The same thing happened with the contact from Renishaw’s, a grant of £5,000 was paid but that contact was also made redundant. Hard times.

We did get that money and what followed was a mad scramble to further fund the shortfall, no stone was left unturned. Begging calls were made, awful, but needs must…. A local business man had donated £25,000 for footings, another donated £1,000 just by someone on the Committee making a cheeky phone call. In fact he said ’Is this a begging call’, ‘Actually yes, sorry about that’, ‘Put me down for a £1,000 and make sure xxxx puts his hand in his pocket’. Begging letters to small Trusts got results. The Jack Lane Charitable Trust contributed £1,000 and many more gave small sums, we couldn’t have done it without them.

However, another unforeseen issue was that most grant makers who pledge support for your project won’t pay the grant over until they see the results, impossible for a small charity like us. So that was worked around with help from some of the grant makers who were prepared to release the funds up front, amazing because they really were taking a punt. SDC, EPC, the Cory and Ibstock Cory Trusts and the Charlie Bullock fund got us well and truly build started.

Once the building was looking like a reality some grant funders doubled their original grant. SDC granted £80,000 in total, the two Cory Trusts doubled their grants and EPC further supported it. Even grant makers who didn’t support ‘capital build projects’ were persuaded. A local trust agreed to fund the toilets and kitchen area, with some creative form filling. In fact there was a lot of creativity in all aspects, especially with the finances.

From the start the whole ethos of the new centre was that it should be an eco-build. The design had maximised insulation and green products where possible but so far there weren’t any grants in respect of renewable energy until one Committee member put together a very complex application and was awarded £50,000 for the Solar and PV system. What a team!

In the summer of 2009 the builders had finished and the grant money had nearly all gone. But hey, this is Eastington! Volunteers fitted the kitchen, the bar area and the outside decking. Volunteers even smashed down the old pavilion, a bit scary in respect of H&S but it had to go.

In September 2009 a Village Fete was held to celebrate this immense achievement. Shirley Harris, the widow of Owen Harris, attended and formally opened the brand new Eastington Community Centre. She was amazing.

The bar was open and a good time was had by all but we literally had no money left and no tables and chairs!

At the Fete a stall was set up in the hall corner ‘Sponsor a chair for Posteriority’ £15 for a chair with a named label on it. That day 108 chairs were sponsored by local people, some were sponsored for our young folks and some in memory. So if you sit on a chair at the Community Centre remember that it was gifted by a local person for a loved one. A local business also sponsored the round tables we have and they have been used for many weddings and celebratory events, what a lovely gift.

From start to finish the Eastington Community Centre was built in one year. The overall cost was £554,000. It took blood, sweat and tears but it came in on time and on budget, and all done by Volunteers.

The land was bequest in 1989 and almost to the day 20 years later a new Community Centre was completed. To everyone involved, big or small, past or present; we did this and we should all be very proud.