Yesterday night the management committee held its AGM at which the Chairperson Karen Plant presented the following annual report. It's a long read but it sums up neatly where the community centre is today, where it's been over the last year and where it's going next.
Chairperson’s Report 2016
Knighton Community Centre Management Committee
This is my 7th year as Chairperson of Knighton and District Community Centre. For those of you who have attended AGMs on previous years I ask for your understanding as I will start the report as I always do with a plea to all the people of Knighton to support us with our plans to not only transform The Community Centre into a Hub but to see the future of the centre as integral to their and our community. As in previous years I have to emphasise that, despite the enthusiastic and hard working Committee’s many achievements, we can often feel disappointed by the apparent lack of support in the wider community regarding the long term survival of the centre.
Visitors from other areas are often astonished that such an incredible asset is available to a relatively small community so why is this attitude not shared by many Knightonians? We, the committee, struggle on a daily basis to keep the centre up and running, with just a few members and a small band of volunteers. How much more could be achieved if this important community resource on which much else in the town’s life depends attracted more volunteers to offer their services. To paraphrase, let’s join together and recognize the Comm’s far reaching potential.
Thankfully Powys County Council (PCC) continues to support us by assisting with outdoor maintenance and taking on our compliance programme, which includes legionella testing, testing and certification of emergency lighting and signage, fire doors, extinguishers, stage lighting rigs, fixed electrics and roller shutters, PAT testing, and water boiler and central heating servicing. This is all, as you can imagine, extremely complex to manage and costly for a building of this size but is essential for the safe and legal running of the Centre.
vents and Activities
It remains our core purpose that the activities which take place in the Centre should not only be a positive experience for people but also contribute to the general well-being of the community. The vision we have for the a Hub can only enhance this belief.
The range of activities we host continues to be impressive, flying in the face of the oft heard misconception that nothing much goes on in the Comm! The table below shows an analysis of events and activities over the year 2015.
Analysis of Activities January to December 2015
Activity Types Number of sessions Hours usage
Adult Education: 92 232
Artistic: 87 279
Meetings 22 52
Children’s 13 42
Mothers and toddlers
Primary school leavers’ party
Youth service drop-ins
Social: 52 162
Others: 155 565
Sporting: 268 679
Looking at this list of events and activities which the Community Centre has to offer, I think you will agree the range is impressive.
Entertainment-wise the community could choose between the Teme Spirits production, Knighton Silver Band concerts and a young people’s charity orchestral concert, fundraisers for Knighton Show and Carnival and musical events ranging from live folk, blues and roots music in the bar.
Sports-wise Karate, Zumba and fitness classes continued to be very popular regular activities, while the Centre is also used as a base for annual cycle and car rallies. Sadly Badminton club numbers have dwindled and this is seriously under threat unless more people attend.
Welsh classes have been a welcome addition to our activity programme, while Art classes continued as in previous years with good attendance and are due to start again in September, although the class will not continue with us when we transfer to the Drill Hall.
In the area of health and well-being, the committee has been very pleased to accommodate the weekly Leg Club, available on a regular basis every Thursday morning. Mid-Powys Mind for a time ran a well-being club every Friday morning. Volunteering on Prescription continues to run occasional cookery classes which aim to teach new cooking skills in a sociable environment, while the weekly Slimming World has been another welcome addition.
‘The Comm’ continues to attract young couples wishing to have their wedding receptions here. The picture below shows just how attractive the old place can look if you apply a little imagination.
The Knighton Community Market, run by Christopher Plant and Tom Taylor, continues to thrive and has become a well established bi-monthly community event. Much more than a market, it’s a lively place to socialise, meet friends and family in warm and dry surroundings, often with live music also on offer, and is increasingly drawing visitors to the town.
The centre is vital for Polling Days and the Welsh Blood Collection service as well as for large public meetings, all these functions enhanced by its accessibility and adjacent car park.
The committee’s renovation of the old snooker room into the more useful Reynolds Room has proved to be a runaway success, with regular activities on many days of the week and an increase in bookings for private parties, meetings and workshops. It has been particularly ideal for the Flicks in the Sticks film shows. The following part of this report has been written by Sheila Taylor who, with her partner Roger Casstles, has, on a volunteer basis, organised and run the film programme, for which the committee are extremely grateful
Flicks in the Sticks
From Sept 2015 to May 2016 audience numbers were generally good and the total net box office profit was ₤398, with profit also made on refreshments.
There will be unfortunately be fewer films for children in the forthcoming programme because attendance at such screenings last season was poor, though we may consider a matinee during half term. We should also note the matinee screenings during the last season in association with KINDA.
The Autumn season commences Friday 9th September and all films this season will be in The Reynolds Room on Fridays at 7.30pm, moving across to the Drill Hall during the period of renovation. There is an e-mailing list for Knighton Flicks. Please add your e-address if you would like to be notified of forthcoming films.
Flicks Knighton has also been assisting other venues with their audio systems as sound seems to be universally a problem.
We are looking forward to the Autumn Season, hope our film choices will suit all tastes and would like to add a thank you to all our willing volunteers who help with refreshments and putting out and clearing away chairs. Thanks too, of course, to our loyal audiences.
Cooking on a budget
Generous funding from PAVO enabled the Community Centre to organise and provide cooking classes run by a local chef and supported by enthusiastic volunteers. The aim of Cooking on a Budget was to “encourage and develop a love of cooking by demonstrating and sharing basic cooking skills” over a course of 6 sessions. To encourage participation from young parents, childcare was provided. This provision was very popular and after a slow start word of mouth filled all the places on the course in the end. We ran a further course later in the year which again was popular though not as well attended as the first course.
Evaluation of the programme by participants highlighted some of the benefits expressed, namely:
Broadening their repertoire of what to cook; Companionship with others in a similar situation with young children;
Understanding the importance of balanced meals.
There is still funding left to run a further course but plans have stalled due to lack of a suitable cook to lead. Suggestions for further course themes include ‘Cooking for One’ or ‘Cooking for children/young persons’.
Youth and family activities
One of the Committee’s goals is to continue to encourage young people and families to use our Centre as they are a section of the community that is under-represented in our activities and booking listing. We have tried to address this with the appointment of younger committee members but we unfortunately we seem to have a problem retaining younger members due to their work/ family commitments. Sophie Watts, our sole representative, was able to advise the organisers of cooking on a budget about child care provision. She also organised a Mother and Toddler group in the Reynolds Room this August on a voluntary basis and this was very well attended.
We continue to welcome, as in previous years, the Young Farmers who run their own exciting events in the Comm. Lesley Smith, from the Youth Service, ran a Drop In Session from the reception office for a trial period, finishing at the beginning of this year. The room hire cost was absorbedby the Community Centre drawing on funds from the Police Commissioner’s Grant received in 2014. We hope to continue to work with the Youth Service, especially in view of the massive cuts to their agency, and would welcome more youth activities within the Centre. In addition, the committee is keen to work with any organisations to achieve our goal, as exemplified by our wholehearted support for the Carnival Committee with their planned youth dance on Carnival Day this year.
For the first time the Comm has its own secure office. It has been painted and fitted out with comfortable furniture, phone line and broadband to enable us to encourage and welcome new and established volunteers. We are only able to open the office once a week at present as it is volunteer run. With Liz Reynolds, our Volunteer Coordinator, we join together for a chat, tea/coffee and biscuits to look at the diary of events and carry out practical jobs like gardening and litter collection.
As in previous years I need to emphasise that accommodating all the previously mentioned activities comes at a cost. Simply keeping open this enormous building (the biggest community centre in Powys) needs an income of approximately £2000 - £2500 per month. Lynne Conway, our treasurer, will provide you with more details when she presents the financial report. However, it is still apparent that, despite a steady increase in the number of hirings leading to improvement on last year’s income, we still struggle with huge heating, lighting and other utility bills. It is worth repeating that this is a charitable organisation, run for the benefit of the community, with virtually all expenses having to be met from events and activities held at the centre. We do receive some funding from Powys County Council and Knighton Town Council - of course much appreciated - but it is only a tiny fraction of the money needed to keep the place afloat.
Publican Andy Crowe has successfully run our bar since February 2014 and has continued to staff on the one hand very small bars for modest gatherings such as parties and after-funeral gatherings as well as on the other hand bigger bars for weddings and larger scale functions. For this we receive 10% of the profit. Our working relationship is extremely good: Andy understands the unpredictable nature of bar bookings for the Comm and is very supportive of our aims. He has agreed to carry on running the bar until possible closure in October.
Dominique Jones, our Fundraiser on behalf of the rest of the committee, has worked extremely hard on both the Big Lottery and Welsh Government bids, which together, if awarded in full, as we hope, will enable us to realise an exciting project, The Big Ren (the renovation of the Comm into a Community Hub). Dominique, in the following part of the report, will explain our current position with both of the bids.
“Last year I described a feeling of ‘Ground Hog Day’ – well that feeling continues. However we inch ever closer to our vision and we have made some significant progress.
“In December 2015 the Welsh Government (Communities Facility Programme) awarded us £499,728 for renovation work and that added to the £105,000 promised by Powys County Council provides a good chunk of the £1.8 million needed for the whole project. It should be noted however that we are currently in negotiation with the Welsh Government because the timing of the project has slipped and they are now concerned that we may not be able to spend the grant offered within the current financial year (2016/17).
“Planning permission was granted eventually after some considerable delay, which then put back the timescales for submitting the final bid (don’t forget we have already got through the first round, and also received a development grant), which went in at the beginning of May. We are told formally that bids can take up to 6 months to review, but informally they are trying to complete reviews in 4 months. Therefore we can expect a decision anytime between September and November – we hope nearer to September so that our build programme can start in October / November as we had originally planned. The bid to the Lottery is £193,458 for projects and staffing (over a 3 year period) and £805,619 for renovation works bring a total of £999,077.
“For those of you good at maths the culmination of these grants do not reach our total. We therefore submitted an expression of interest application to the Rural Communities Development Fund (again Welsh Government) for the final £115k which is very much focused on the catering and café area. Again we have been successful in getting through the first round and we now have to submit a full bid.
“Due to the gap in timing we have had to forge ahead, without all the funding guaranteed, with requesting our architect put together the full specification and go out to tender in anticipation of a successful outcome. This will mean that as soon as we have notification we will be in a position to respond and start the programme in October or November.
“We have heard on the grapevine that some people think that this is a huge amount of public money and perhaps not a good investment. This is a regeneration project, and we take the view that it is an investment in the future of Knighton, not only providing much needed projects in the area but also providing an attraction for a whole range of activity and events. Applying for Community Interest Organisation status will enable us to generate income to support our new charitable purposes and the 4 outcomes of the project.
“To be clear, we have a projected Business Plan up to 2020 which illustrates that even with conservative estimates of income we can be self-sustaining following the end of the lottery funding programme. But the success of this Centre will come down to whether the community continues to support it, and whether we can attract enough rental income from the many new and exciting spaces we will have to offer. Our view is that we have sustained it during some of the hardest times, through austerity and without any paid staff (except a little caretaking and cleaning) and to have some paid staff to organise, apply for grants and attract new business we will have a thriving entity.”
There have been some other smaller scale applications: for example, PAVO which awarded the Centre £2500 towards a ‘Cooking on a Budget’ project which I have already explained earlier in the report.
There are ongoing and very positive negotiations with Lt Col Hughes, Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association for Wales, about the use of the Drill Hall,pictured above, when the Comm closes for refurbishment. The finer detail still has to be worked out but the committee plans to meet up with representatives again to produce a formal contract. A hirers’ meeting was held recently to enable potential users to not only hear our plans but also to view the Drill Hall. Some hirers have already decided the building is not suitable for their activities but others, particularly those running sporting activities, believe it will be acceptable.
While the building has a good woodblock floor, adequate heating, nearby parking, other rooms for smaller gathering and some storage space, it has a few downsides. The extremely limited kitchen facilities will mean that only tea/coffee type refreshments will be possible. Access is not great, though a wheelchair ramp can be placed at one entrance if necessary, and storage is going to need a creative approach to cope with all our equipment.
Overall we believe it is a reasonable alternative venue while the Comm is being refurbished and are extremely grateful to Lt Col Hughes for engaging in such a constructive way.
Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO)
As explained at the last AGM we have been operating as a Company Limited by Guarantee, which meant the trustees become directors and as a consequence have no personal liability if, in the future, the Centre became untenable. However, as we went on to explain at that time, a relatively new entity, namely Charitable Incorporated Organisation, is available which still limits trustees’ financial liability but only requires registration with the Charity Commission, so bureaucracy is reduced - thus improving our governance. The committee has agreed to change our present entity from a Company Limited by Guarantee to a Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Therefore a resolution to change entities will be proposed at this AGM and, if accepted, The Company Limited by Guarantee would be dissolved and a COI formed. Dominique will kindly explain what a CIO entails prior to the resolution which is item 6 on the agenda. Information in writing is also available. Again, hopefully such a change would encourage more people to come forward in the future to participate on the committee.
At this point I would like to say a huge thank you to all the present committee, repeating what I have said for several AGMs, that we have worked together as a great team, putting in long hours, so that the doors of the Community Centre can remain open. As committee members can testify, our meetings may be long and very animated at times but we support each other and laughter is a great way of lightening the atmosphere.
In November Rochelle Russell, Secretary, and Paul Russell, Treasurer, resigned for family reasons. To great sighs of relief Lynne Conway, a previous treasurer, agreed to be co-opted onto our committee as Treasurer again. This is a job many baulk at but Lynne has carried out the role with a great deal of competence. In addition, Penny Nicholson kindly agreed to be our minute taker and office administrator, not a committee post, and Dominique Jones took on the title of Secretary. Sophie Watts, who was valuable in encouraging young families to use the Centre, has had to withdraw due to her work commitments. The committee members have enjoyed working with those who have left or are leaving and wish them the very best in the future
My husband Christopher, who is not a committee member, continues to work, on a voluntary basis, as the booking and invoicing clerk, building manager and events coordinator, invariably on the front line when problems occur. Having set up our comprehensive website, on a tiny budget, along with our Facebook page, he manages and updates them frequently. These resources, more than anything else, have continued to be excellent ways of reaching out to people and promoting activities. For example, a recent posting on Facebook for the Easter market reached 565 people, while a posting about the Future Hub Plans page on the website reached almost 1400 people. Christopher also maintains the centre’s links with the local papers, edited and proof read this report, and in addition he works on a part-time basis as a caretaker. Although only contracted for 8hrs weekly it is a 7 days a week concern, demanding flexibility: even on holiday he’s dealing with bookings and maintenance issues in the Comm.
I would like to thank our small band of volunteers for their support and practical assistance helping us run events and manage the building, and TVEG, who created our beautiful herb garden outside the Reynolds Room and continue to maintain it in all its glory. If only a few more volunteers with enthusiasm could come forward we could greatly enhance the centre. In addition, thanks need to be passed on to the Big Ren Planning sub-group who have given their time to take forward our plans to realise our goal of creating a Community Hub. Special thanks, as always to Fred Lewis and Marty Jones for always being near at hand and Julia Roberts for kindly holding our keys and acting as a ticket outlet.
Finally a big thank you to our dedicated cleaning staff who do a fantastic job of keeping the Centre clean. They are a very flexible team and are valued greatly by the committee.
To conclude as I did last year, and the year before, it is imperative that Knighton people are under no illusion: the future of the Community Centre, even at this time of ambitious and exciting plans with press reports of grant awards, remains precarious. Our community needs to show its support and commitment if it wants its Centre to stay open and in the future become a Community Hub of which Knighton can be proud.
This blog is maintained by Chris Plant on behalf of the Management Committee to bring you all the other bits of Comm news and info that don't quite fit anywhere else.