Conversations with our Community

It’s been all go at MIC headquarters over the past couple of months, and we thought we should take a moment to update you on where we’re at and say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has engaged with our public consultation work so far.

We have held two consultation events open to the general public, with support from volunteers and local businesses. Around sixty people attended these events to hear about what’s been happening behind the scenes and share their ideas about the future of Buckfastleigh Methodist Church. As well as the grown up chat focused around the various spaces in the building and what types of activities and facilities people might want to see there, Charlie and Vicky from The Clockwork Moth held space beautifully for younger members of our community using lego and drawing and play to help them dream up a future hub for our town.

Nearly 200 of you so far have completed our questionnaire (either on paper or online), and these responses have been fed into our analysis too. If you haven’t taken a moment to share your thoughts with us yet then please do – we have two separate surveys, one for adults and one for teens and tweens, and we would really love to hear anything at all you would like us to consider as we move things forwards.

There has also been some more targeted consultation work, with conversations with community groups (both young and old) and also with local changemakers, creatives, entrepreneurs and community leaders. Out of this we have recruited a voluntary advisory group which will be meeting for the first time next week. We’re hoping they will help us keep our eye on the wider perspective of what the town wants and needs, and support us to make our ideas a reality.

A vital step in that is of course funding, and we are busy laying the groundwork for some major funding applications which we plan to submit over the next six weeks. Much of this work has been made possible by the Architectural Heritage Fund, in particular essential input from architects and surveyors to explore the potential of the building. We now have measured plans, and are imminently awaiting the condition report which will tell us how much renovation work there is to do. We are also working with our architect Perry Mears – appointed after we went out to tender and received bids from several local practices – to develop a vision for the space that will be flexible, accessible and sustainable.

There are lots of different facilities and activities that we – and you – would love to create space for, and we are working with social enterprise consultant James Perrott (who has recently come on board as one of our CIC directors) to design a viable business plan which will help us launch the project and keep it going for many years to come.

And this is where you come in.

Every idea that is going into our business plan, our funding bids, and our conversations about the architecture of the building has been directly influenced by you: by the people who’ve completed our questionnaire, who have attended our consultations, who have chatted to us in the street. So far it’s clear that the people of Buckfastleigh are overwhelmingly in support of our vision to create a welcoming, inspiring, creative community hub in the heart of our town.

There is an appetite for a venue that will offer performances of different kinds: 70% of you said you would like a place to experience live music and theatre. Lots of you are also looking for places you can get involved in creative activities yourselves: again 70% of respondents were keen for somewhere that would offer arts and crafts classes and workshops to the community, and over half were interested in drama and dance classes. Other popular ideas included a cafe/bar, a market, a creative studio for music and film, exercise and wellness classes, education offerings for all ages and a community kitchen.

There were lots of practical considerations that came up through the consultation too, such as parking and noise proofing and accessibility (for both physical disabilities and neurodiversity). There is also concern that the architectural heritage of the building is incorporated in any changes to its design, and that it is developed in such a way that respects the environment and the needs of future generations.

People also spoke about wanting a place where anyone could feel welcome to come and hang out, irrespective of how much money they had to spend. It is really important to us that this building does not feel elite or exclusive, and that everyone in town feels like it has something to offer them – and that if it doesn’t then you feel safe enough to ask for something that meets your needs.

We know that we still have a way to go before we realise that vision, and many more bridges to cross before the building itself belongs to the community and we can start putting all these ideas into practice.

If you would like to help us get there though then we would love to hear from you.

The most important thing you can do at this stage is complete our questionnaire, and to encourage local friends and family to complete it too! Funders want to know we are listening to our community, and we want to listen to what you have to say.

And if you feel like you might have capacity to come on board as a volunteer then complete this short form, and we will be in touch.

More updates soon… And in the meantime, thank you for reading – and for all you are doing to help make our vision a reality.

Conversations with our Community

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