By Kevin Unitt 26/07 Updated: 27/07 12:26
EVER since we revealed in February that Bath Place Community Venture was facing eviction from its home at the old library in Avenue Road, its future has been uncertain.
Initially given just 28-days notice to vacate the building - because owners Warwickshire College want to sell it off for redevelopment – it has had several stays of execution while petitions have been launched in a bid to save it.
Here new venture boss Chris Barrow, writing exclusively for the Observer, updates readers on the current situation, and the possible future for the long-established and well-loved organisation.
Community Centre or Creative Hub? Which would you prefer in the centre of your town? One suggests; dynamism, energy, excitement, modernism, private entrepreneurs. The other suggests; problems, issues, poor quality, charity.
It is a sad fact that the phrase “community centre” for many conveys a poor image. Yet, a creative hub is dynamic, useful and where new skills are learnt. But, in reality need they be so different? What, after all, is the purpose of a community centre? It is a place for people to gather, where clubs and societies can meet and where facilities are available for anybody; where interests are developed and new skills learnt.
Bath Place Community Venture sees its future in the provision of a wide range of spaces, resources with access to skills, with the ability for anyone in the community able to access. To that end it has been negotiating with a number of potential partners, who can help deliver these resources and services.
To survive, Bath Place needs a property as large as the old library and is very keen to remain though its current agreements to use the building run out in mid-September. Financing to acquire the building is available and a business plan is in course of preparation.
The loss of the building (to an alternative use) would create a big hole, which does not just affect Bath Place, but also all the other users of the spaces. So far, there does not seem to be any alternative. Where can we move the Spires Youth Orchestra, the County Music Service, the Steel Pan Academy, our own café, Bromford Support, the County Council meetings, the children’s areas, the recording studios of One Nation (and more)?
There is a huge opportunity to create a real hub - a community creative hub, which simultaneously gives opportunities for anybody and everybody in the community, not just the people who need real help; to improve their job skills, to be able to meet and network with others and which generates revenues for the business.
Because, that is what Bath Place has to be to survive – a business. The intention is to restructure as a Social Enterprise, which means that profits are re-invested into our charitable aims, which is broadly to support the people of Leamington. This does not mean that fund raising and grants applications for projects will stop; it means that the business would be revenue producing, enough to cover operating costs and produce an excess that can be used to support other charities and community organisations.
As Bath Place already has an IT suite, access to recording studios, video equipment and has a photographic studio in preparation, negotiations are now taking place with partners to develop and deliver further services, to include education, workshops, knowledge transfer and specific projects. August will see the reopening of the Art Gallery.
By concentrating on developing job skills, Bath Place believes it can then generate enough excess cash to be able to support other charities in their specific aims.
Losing the Old Library for the development of luxury housing would be a great loss for the community and for the town as a whole. But finding a suitable space for the new improved community hub as envisaged by Bath Place elsewhere cannot be done so easily.
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