Sunday, 31 January 2010
Dear Editor, Anybody who has travelled along the Bury Road in Thetford recently surely would not have failed to spot the now gaping hole in the roof of St Mary the Less Church. I suspect many people in Thetford feel as disgusted as me that this has been allowed to happen. A much smaller hole first appeared at the start of 2009, and the photograph above shows the extent of damage on the 4th May 2009. The other photo above shows the damage as of this week. In the not too distant future I suspect it will get worse, particularly with the wet and cold weather we will no doubt have over the coming weeks and months. Myself and many others have made Breckland Council aware of this issue on numerous occasions over the past year in the hope that they will take action, it would appear they have done nothing. They have a statutory obligation to protect historically significant buildings. St Mary the Less is a Grade 2 listed building, and on the Buildings at Risk Register. Its churchyard contains notable Thetford figures including Sir Richard Fulmerston. Neither the owner, or Breckland Council have done anything to safeguard this important building. What exactly is required to occur before something is done? Maybe they are waiting for it to completely fall to the ground?
Today was my 7th working day at the new project… time flies hey! A lot has happened since that very cold first day on the 4th January!! We (myself and Tina Westgarth – Cafe Development Worker) spent the first week pretty much engaged in cleaning what we could and putting initial things into place. Once the heating was sorted, there was a whole list of other contractors / suppliers we needed to speak to. The carpets need to be cleaned, the curtains in the hall as well, need to get the whole place painted and decorated, electricians quotes, new windows etc etc etc It is all being hampered by the fact the hole in the roof remains and we have been unable to obtain quotes as companies could not get onto the roof and assess what is needed while it was covered with snow. Now that it has all gone, we are hoping to make some quick progress with this. The downside of having a non-frozen roof of course is that all of the water is now coming through again and we have a wet carpet! Today I got all of the window shutters up and attacked the very thick cobwebs and some mean looking spiders with a big broom!! Windows need to be cleaned, and frames repainted. We’ve been very fortunate to have a number of people pop-in and offer to volunteer, probably about 7 people have now completed volunteer application forms and a number of others have said they will pop-in at some point. Much work to do in terms of processing these, completing CRB checks, arranging for inductions and sourcing the necessary training, getting name badges sorted etc. Tomorrow will be a very good day as we should be having our new computers delivered and getting connected to the internet and email!! that should help us get things underway. Been having lots of conversations about the sorts of activities that can take place in the building, hope to involve as many people as possible in due course to get ideas and get many people involved in supporting the project. I’ve now created a Thetford Meet-up Cafe user on Facebook, so feel free to ‘Add as a friend’ if you use Facebook!! Also, click here to see a great article about the project in last Thursdays EDP:- http://www.edp24.co.uk/content/edp24/news/story.aspx?brand=EDPOnline&category=News&tBrand=EDPOnline&tCategory=xDefault&itemid=NOED13%20Jan%202010%2017:44:28:480
Well, today was the first day of my new job managing the Inspiring Communities project in Thetford with the Benjamin Foundation. (Website: www.benjaminfoundation.co.uk) I’ve left the world of Keystone behind, and am now managing this new project in Thetford which will see the redundant community centre on the Redcastle Estate transformed into a community centre, cafe, and learning hub for young people. I intend to record as much about the journey of this project as possible, and day 1 seems a good bit to record! What is the project? In August, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) awarded 15 lots of funding to projects around the UK. See here – http://www.lgcplus.com/children-and-education/latest-childrens-services-and-education-news/inspiring-communities-projects-named/5004789.article The project submitted by the Benjamin Foundation was successful and over £400,000 was allocated. A major achievement! The only project in the whole of East Anglia, and to a town the size of Thetford on top of the other sums of money given to the town (Growth Point, Healthy Towns, SRB, European Objective 2 and others). The project in Thetford will “include running a community café as a social enterprise that will act as a vibrant community focal point and provide training opportunities, voluntary and work experience placements and information and signposting services. Intergenerational gardening programme, a school and community radio station, and skills swaps are some of the other activities on offer”. In short, it is about creating a hub for the community, a vibrant community centre for all sorts of community activities but a specific focus on children and young people and a specific focus on training and skills improvement. The building will host a community cafe which will act as a regular drop-in for young people where they can go to complete their homework, seek advice and support, or just chill-out with friends. Other elements of the project will develop over time including media related activities and community gardening. The project will no doubt benefit the whole of Thetford, but a specific focus will be placed on the three West Thetford Estates – Abbey, Redcastle and Barnham Cross, for it is because of these areas that the funding was awarded. Many of the activities for this project will be located away from the building as well to ensure that as many young people as possible benefit from what it on offer. Today was day one, and the challenge we face was clear. The building was very cold, the heating did not work and much of the plaster-board to the roof inside had collapsed due to the leaky roof, it smelt of damp, and the buckets strategically positioned around the building were full of smelly rain water. Week 1 will see us cleaning as much of the building as possible, and getting to grips with what we need to do. Getting the heating working again is the number 1 priority, getting the roof fixed is also clearly a priority – it is however dependent on the weather as the roof is covered in snow so we are unable to get it sorted. Other tasks will include; Getting the oven working, electrical sockets checked, ordering all new equipment, cleaning – or replacing the carpets in some areas, re-painting the whole building, setting up our office, ordering or, sourcing all kitchen equipment – cutlery, pots, pans, dining tables and chairs, cleaning the windows etc etc The next few weeks, and probably the whole of January and into February will be focused on getting the building fit for purpose.