Reproduced below is the complete text of the Chairperson's report delivered to Monday's AGM by Karen Plant, her 9th and final report after steering the centre through a period of extraordinary revitalisation.
Chairperson’s Report 2018
Knighton and District Community Centre Management Committee
This, my 9th and final Chairperson’s report, is definitely the most up beat I’ve ever presented, as we now have a Community Centre brought into the 21st century, fit for purpose and of which we should all be proud.
Since the doors reopened after the refurb in May 2017, progress towards sustainability and becoming a true community hub has been phenomenal. We thought it would take a couple of years to regain hirers and return to the level of activity we were at when we closed for 6 months renovation work, but not only have we reached that level already but all our expectations have been exceeded. We are now in the fortunate position of facing a daily problem of juggling bookings: finding available slots and rooms, particularly in the evenings and weekends, is becoming quite a challenge!
The Centre has moved rapidly in the direction of a Community Hub where, while Knighton people are able to continue to enjoy an ever expanding range of activities, they now have the opportunity to access various services which have recently moved to the Comm, of which more later in the report. Additionally, the beautifully equipped relocated library is a wonderful asset for the town, as Hannah, the Librarian’s report will show.
The big news for the Comm, certainly from my viewpoint and that of those volunteers for whom the increasing daily burden of co-ordinating bookings, invoicing, promotion, compliance requirements etc was becoming impossible, has to be the appointment of new staff members, Ceri Brown and Louise Hardwick, in July this year. Let there be no doubt, managing the building on a day-to-day basis has taken a toll on some of us. There is sufficient funding in place for two years for Ceri, who works 18 hrs per week. To say she has hit the road running would not be an understatement! Louise, funded by PAVO to run the Volunteer Hub, is also a key part of the Comm team and, like Ceri, has proved to be a fantastic asset to the Centre.
There remains much to be done and your Community Centre desperately needs new volunteers. Our present band of volunteers and committee members needs new blood, not only to keep the Centre running but to continue the project of providing the community with a thriving and sustainable Hub.
Dominique, our fantastic fundraiser, will explain in more detail later about the different funding we have received over the last year and her vision for ensuring sustainability in the future.
Events 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.
With this in mind, I think you will all agree the range of activities we host continues to be impressive, contrary to the frequently encountered misconception that nothing much goes on at the Comm! The table below shows an analysis of events and activities over the year 2017/18.
Analysis of Activities 1st Sept 2017 to 31st Aug 2018
Activity Types Hours usage
Health and well-being:
Sport & Fitness:
Army Cadets, play, Story time 175
Hours of activities 1998
We have continued to make extremely good progress in the area of adult education, artistic, social and sport and fitness. In the category of Health and Well-being, again we have expanded greatly.
An area, I am pleased to report, where particular progress has been made, is in encouraging young people and families to use the resource – they are sections of the community that previously were under-represented at the Comm. New activities that have been offered these groups include several centred around the Library: Literacy summer events, game and lego clubs and Bounce and Rhyme as well as Play Radnor, and there has been an increase in children’s
Our popular Tuesday café, developed by Ruth Forrester, is also encouraging young families to enjoy the facilities; Ruth will later give a brief outline of both the Café concept and plans to further expand the services for children.
Weddings have always been popular at the Comm - the venue enables couples to keep the celebration on a modest scale if they wish as well as making more extravagant affairs affordable. To promote the Centre as a wedding venue, work is in progress to devise a wedding brochure which will make it easier for couples to see what the Comm has to offer.
On Polling Days, for the Welsh Blood collection services and for large public meetings which could not be accommodated elsewhere in Knighton, The Comm remains vital, with its improved accessibility and adjacent car park.
In addition to the regular weekly and monthly activities as well as many one-off events, I would like to showcase some of the events and new initiatives which we have organised or been involved with during 2017/18.
The Library and Community Centre Café
The Library and Community Centre Tuesday cafe was proposed and subsequently organised by Ruth Forrester, starting in April, operating from 10-12.30. Staffed by volunteers the cafe serves users of the Library, those attending Tuesday morning activities such as line dancing, Welsh classes, the Hearing Clinic and people visiting staff in the Community Centre. The café has featured a number of successful demonstrations, including cooking and baking, gardening, knitting and a talk by a local author and plans are already in the pipeline for more of these in the future.
Various agencies, including Supporting People and the Community Connector, have a presence in the Comm, linking very successfully with the café. Whole families with young children enjoy the facilities available and we have also had a special Library Tea for a group of children and parents from the primary school, organised with the Head, Mary Strong. We will be supporting the planned Literary Festival in October, as well as a Volunteers Fair/Coffee Morning in November.
Services for families, children and young people
Continuing on the youth theme, one of the aims of the Community Centre for several years has been to increase the range of services for families and young people. The following activities are currently on offer at The Comm:
Bounce and Rhyme (babies) – Library
Play and Stay (young children) – Play Radnor
Fitness, Dance and Musical Theatre.
Additionally a programme called ’Kids @ The Comm’ will start in October: physical activities will be offered to children straight off the school buses from Presteigne, while an extension to library opening hours will enable young people to use the facility. Contact has also been made with the primary school and it is planned to hold regular joint events to promote the library as well as the school, using our kitchen for cookery lessons and the children serving their parents in the bar area.
The lack of availability of less structured activities (play) and the closure of youth service provision are major problems in Knighton. We have close contact with Play Radnor and are hoping to develop playworker posts in the Knighton area for young people up to the age of 13. This is, of course, subject to the availability of grant funding. The primary school Head is wholly supportive of this as are individual Town and County Councillors.
We are exploring developing a point of contact with domestic abuse services and it is hoped a regular drop-in service may become available in the future. In addition, a training session about domestic abuse is planned in late September 2018.
Following a successful meeting facilitated by our County Councillor, Angelique Williams, it is planned that our two PSCOs will hold a monthly surgery for the public at the Tuesday cafes, where it will be possible for people to have informal, private discussions.
While certainly not on the same scale as our Gardening Day last year, Sue Shaw this time linked it very successfully to the Community Market and was able to use the event to kickstart a future project to construct raised beds at the back of the building, to grow fruit and veg for the community to enjoy.
The Knighton Community Market, run by Christopher Plant and Tom Taylor, remains a popular bi-monthly community event, with its Community café, run by a dedicated bunch of volunteers, generating much needed funds for the Comm. The café volunteers seem to have great fun and the customers continue to enjoy the lively atmosphere of the market to shop and the café to socialise.
The committee collaborated briefly last year with a group of Knightonians who successfully staged a rock night in the Comm, with the aim of encouraging a different group of people to enjoy what the centre has to offer.
A highly rated Scottish band fusing klezmer with Balkan and Middle Eastern rhythms, Moishe’s Bagel played last October. Snacks were offered and a great night was had by all.
We hosted the willow Globe production of Henry V in January. With over 70 people attending it was deemed a great success: hopefully the company will be back next year.
Flicks in the Sticks/ Borderline Film Festival
I was very concerned about Flicks future after Roger stepped down from projecting the films but Arts Alive very kindly came to our rescue and agreed to fund the cost of the projectionist for the next two seasons. As a result we continued to draw in good audience numbers and the films brought in a healthy profit boosted by the income from refreshments. The Flicks in the Sticks concept brings to rural venues such as ours some great entertainment loved by many, including myself.
One film which I personally, along with others was proud to show was a little known Afghan film. We were given funding to promote this little known but courageous director in whatever way we liked. We researched and cooked Afghan street food and served it during the interval along with appropriate music- for those who attended it was most definitely an unusual but at the same time amazing evening.
Being included in the Borderline Film Festival was a first for us and we were delighted to host the showing of 2 films: whilst a success we unfortunately had to cancel one film due to dreadful weather. Hopefully our inclusion will be an annual event.
As in previous years I need to emphasise that accommodating all the previously mentioned activities comes at a financial cost. In previous years the cost of keeping open the biggest community centre in Powys needed approximately £2500 per month. We anticipated that with new heating system, double glazing and a new insulated roof, our fuel costs would be greatly reduced – this has not been apparent so far but that may be more to do with the increase in room hire and the costs around the library. In addition there are a myriad of bills to pay – insurance, performing licences, compliance testing, washroom services and wages to name a few.
Again and again I have to repeat 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. Powys County Council no longer gives any funding to Community Centres or village halls, while Knighton Town Council continues to support us for which we are very appreciative.
Dominique Jones continues to be KDCC’s main fund raiser – although others on the committee are increasingly involved.
In last year’s report we said that the library service had been awarded a grant to relocate the library in to Knighton and District Community Centre. By rights it should have been reported in this year’s annual report (due to the financial years ending on March 31st) so Dominique is again mentioning that the library service, supported by ourselves, was successful in attracting further Welsh Government Grant funding (Museums, Archives and Libraries Division’s Capital Development Programme). The result is there for all to see! In addition, we received a £12k capital contribution from Powys County Council (PCC) Library Service to complete some further required work, such as the electronic doors to the library, and to help purchase some of the new lightweight furniture.
As our agent for the capital programme PCC released back to us £25k (which had been a contribution from the Cadets) from the underspend on infrastructure which we are now using for additional improvements and ongoing maintenance. Whilst we no longer receive the annual community hall grant from PCC, we have received unstinting support both in terms of capital funding and officer help. This rather counters the argument that PCC does not support Knighton sufficiently and our approach has always been to seek out and develop good working relationships, which more often than not result in a positive outcome.
Dominique applied for a Community Regeneration & Development Fund Capital Grant for £15k and this was awarded towards the end of the financial year and there was a frantic rush to invest the money by the 31st March but as usual KDCC stepped up to the challenge and all the money was spent. New chairs, tables, screens, notice boards and a variety of other items were purchased enhancing the overall look of the Centre.
As reported last year a huge amount of effort was invested in applying to the M&S Community Energy Fund to pay for solar panels to help reduce our fuel costs, for which we were successfully short listed. An excellent campaigning film had been made by Roger Casstles, while Chris Plant and Dominique worked on a campaigning Web Page trying to generate votes from local people. Unfortunately we were not successful in our bid and only received 260 votes in comparison to some urban projects that received 3000 plus. A lesson was learnt that the effort versus reward (even if we had been successful) was not a good use of time. In fact we probably just helped to market Marks and Spencer for free!
We are delighted to have been accepted as one of the Mid-Counties Co-op’s Fundraising Partners and as a result we are already benefiting from the charge for plastic bags with over £300 having so far been donated to the Centre. Our commitment to this funding is that the money would go towards activities for children and to develop raised flower beds at the rear of the building.
We owe a huge thanks to Knighton Town Council who provide much needed financial support in the form of two grants, one of £1000 as an annual general contribution to the Centre and a £4000 grant towards helping to sustain the library (overheads, cleaning and maintenance etc). Our working relationship with the Town Council is excellent and we look forward to this being maintained into the future.
Fund raising efforts this year have been invested in completing the capital programme, including additional improvements. To our relief we were able to sign off with the contractor in August 2018. For a smallish organisation, which up to recently was almost 98% run by volunteers, this is a fantastic achievement and one that shows how Knighton can rise to any challenge it sets its self and all it takes is a little ambition and a lot (OK, a huge amount) of hard work.
However fundraising work does not stop: Dominique recently submitted a bid to Awards to All (Big Lottery) to help purchase equipment to show films. Whilst again this will be shown in next years accounts I can report now that we were successful in attracting just under £10k.
Fundraising does not just include grant applications but includes the week-in-week-out efforts such as running the bar (which is predominantly done by volunteers), the cafes both at the Market and on a Tuesday morning, also run by volunteers. The accounts illustrate the growth in income in rentals, activities, events and raffles and this provides a very tangible result for the voluntary effort invested in this glorious community asset. However, the number of volunteer hours invested also has an intrinsic value and we are making improved efforts to record the number of hours donated.r year.
What we also need to remind ourselves is that other charities (such as Knighton Under 5s, the Carnival Committee and the Rotary Club) benefit from using the Centre for their own fundraising activities, and, where we can, we try to support this activity.
Now that the capital work has settled down we are committed to resubmitting a bid to People and Places and work has already started on this activity. While there is still some further capital work needed, the majority of funding to be applied for will be revenue for some staffing and key project work to help meet our commitment to become and sustain a thriving community hub. We will be coming out to the community to consult on the next stages but if you have any thoughts (that fit in to the concept of a community hub and within our charitable objectives) then please get in touch.
The library has proved to be a fantastic success since collocating to the Comm, as the following report by Kay Thomas, Principal Librarian bears out. The other success story is the collocation of the Army Cadet service which has a purpose-built office and store room, along with weekly use of Reynolds and Dressing rooms. We, the committee, are proud to accommodate them both.
The last year has been a very exciting time for Knighton library, covering the further development of the partnership with Knighton & District Community Centre Management Committee, the appointment of the Library and Community officer, and the relocation of the library to Knighton and District Community Centre at the end of November 2017! This is a unique service delivery model for Powys library service, and we are very grateful to the Management Committee for their welcome, enthusiasm, practical help and moral support. The first year has been highly successful, and we look forward to developing and working more closely together in the future.
Some key dates:
· May 2017 – confirmation of the grant funding from Welsh Government, to complete and fit out the library and corridor area
· 1st October 2017 - Library and Community Officer, Hannah Isaacson, started in post
· 19th October 2017 – volunteer recruitment event, for library and comm volunteers
· 1st December 2017 – the new library opened at the Comm, celebrated by the Mayor and Junior Mayor, members of the Committee, councillors and friends
· 15th February 2018 – grand official opening, with Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, and other honoured guests, from Welsh Government, Powys County Council, the management committee and the town and community.
Some facts and figures:
· over 30,000 people have been through the doors of the library and the comm since 1st December 2017
· 136 more people joined the library 01/12/17 – 31/05/18 (102 adults and 34 children/young people. 76 are female and 60 male – quite an even split)
· 5,800 books were loaned 01/12/17 – 31/05/18 (around 250 per week), and 400 hours were spent using library computers
· Over 1000 people have attended library/book related events, ranging from bounce and rhyme sessions for tiny children, to class visits, to book group, computer support and arts and crafts activities.
· Although figures are not yet available, participation in the annual children’s summer reading challenge has more than doubled in Knighton in 2018 – and it is recognised that children who read for pleasure go on to do better in school and be more successful in achieving their potential.
· 28 volunteers have registered to help with the library, though not all are active at any one time. Some are also Comm volunteers, and we hope that the shared volunteer angle will develop further in the future.
Work in progress:
Obviously this project is very new yet, and the library and library users are still settling into the new location gradually. However, there are some key themes which will continue to be important over the next year:
· Building the team with the committee and the new Comm staff, Ceri and Louise, will be an important part of the future, as well as developing the whole ethos of the library and Comm as one entity, rather than two separate organisations who happen to share a building.
· Marketing and awareness of the Comm & Library as a whole, and what is available and on offer there to benefit residents. Signage to the library from the town still needs to be completed, as well as better, clearer shelf guiding for finding books in the library, a point which has been highlighted by the local access group.
· Fundraising will continue to be a key priority for the future, and in the library service, we are very conscious of the burden that hosting the library places on the Comm in terms of building running costs. We will continue to work with the Committee to explore a range of grants or other funding opportunities, and to make joint bids to develop our partnership (for example, a small bid has just been submitted to WH Smith’s to cover some of the costs of the forthcoming literary festival).
· Building volunteer support for the centre as a whole will also remain critical, both recruiting and retaining volunteers, and the library service will continue to work with Louise, PAVO and the committee on this, including offering suitable training for volunteers, committee members and staff whenever possible.
Success to date:
There have been so many successful elements to this partnership already that it is difficult to choose highlights; however, both the opening day on 1st Dec, and then the formal official opening with Lord Elis-Thomas in February, must stand out as red letter days in our memories.
The enthusiasm, energy and support of the committee members, the staff and the volunteers has been amazing, in so many ways; the development of the Tuesday morning community café with talks is commendable.
Hannah’s post is the first “joint” post that we have in the library service; she has brought a wealth of library and community knowledge to the project and, like everyone else, has worked so hard to make this new venture a success.
The way in which we are all able to bring different knowledge, networks and skills to the table has shone as a key to a successful partnership, for example, from my point of view, being able to bring in the Supporting People team has now resulted in the housing advice drop-ins on a Tuesday – to add to the wonderful events and services that you already offer.
In the library service, we are now looking forward with excitement to the inaugural Knighton Literary Festival and the “Kids at the Comm” games and homework club, both starting in October. All of these new ventures are “firsts” for us in the library service, and our other libraries are watching and learning from Knighton’s lead. You have taken the fear out of change for us, and shown us what is possible.
Thank you, everyone, for making this possible.
31st August 2018.
Report by Hannah Isaacson, Librarian
Apart from lending and circulating books, the library offers access to council services such as payment of rent and council tax, direct free phone to council services, computers, photocopying and printing. Books on prescription. And of course a safe, friendly and warm space to be.
The library provides a venue for people to work from using the free wifi. For organisations to meet, such as book clubs and Credu Carers, it also has activities which are enjoyed by the public such as Bounce and Rhyme 0-4 yrs, Story time 5 yrs +, Craft Club for adults, Lego and Games clubs. These activities are supported by the Community Centre sometimes in direct funding e.g. Summer Art and Craft Activities for children organised by the Library, sometimes with space sharing, hugely with footfall sharing, and also with resource and volunteers sharing. For example when the Library is running Lego club the Community Centre is running the market. Both events attract custom and together increase customer satisfaction. Adults may enjoy the market and children the lego club so families are more likely to come to both events. Community Centre Volunteer Ruth Forrester came up with the idea of running a Café on Tuesday mornings, which library users as well as those attending classes in the Community Centre can enjoy.
Some of the ways that the Library supports and engages customers include events such as Book Bingo - for all readers - and the Summer Reading Challenge - for children. This is complemented by initiatives from the Community Centre such as hosting a tea for children who are not engaged with reading. The tea was a delicious success and followed by a treasure hunt in the Library with the children attending joining the Library and signing up for the SRC.
The Library is often the first port of call for people wondering how to get support, and the library is able to sign post to services now located in the Community Centre such as PAVO, Housing, Volunteering, and peer support. Equally customers of services such as the Leg or Hearing Club located in the Community Centre are able in one visit to use the Library.
The committee decided to bring the management of the bar in-house. Dave Alker, Michael Harding and Dominique Jones obtained personal licences. This move has meant that the bar is now run by volunteers with only an occasional need for paid bar staff. This is a great step forward towards profitability, especially as our policy is for all events requiring alcohol to purchase through our bar. As you can imagine this requires a big commitment and Dave has taken the lead in the general management of the bar.
Communication with supporters
The Committee decided an email address list of supporters was needed, especially with new legislation on the security of personal data. Ruth Forrester identified Mailchimp as a service provider and the list has now reached 83 subscribers, with a target to recruit 150 by March 2019. Subscribers receive regular emails about events at the Comm together with an occasional request for help. Feedback so far is good, and supporters who are on not on Facebook are pleased to receive the emails.
Following a meeting with PAVO in June 2018, and the decision of Knighton Community Support not to continue with the service, the recruitment of volunteers for all organisations in Knighton has been transferred to the Community Centre. Louise Hardwick is based in the Community Centre for 8 hours on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays recruiting volunteers for all groups in Knighton as well as helping volunteers to find opportunities elsewhere in Powys. A coffee morning/volunteers fair is planned for Tuesday 6th November 2018. We are committed to a target of recruiting 30 volunteers in a year including 10 younger volunteers and the funding for the post depends on achieving this target. The funding is available until April 2019 (from the Welsh Assembly) but we are very hopeful it will continue thereafter.
Future Events and Hirings
Flicks in the Sticks Autumn programme
A sub-group was set up to look at the future development of Flicks. A proposed cut to funding from Arts Alive spurred Dominique into action to obtain funding for our own projection equipment so we would not continue to be reliant on the vagaries of future funding; as said previously this was successful and equipment will be purchased asap. In the mean time the Autumn programme of films will start on September 7th with the usual technical support from Arts Alive until our equipment is installed and volunteers are trained in its use. In addition, I think it would be a good point to include at juncture the funding is now available for a hearing loop in the Reynolds room which will not only be good news for film goers, but others with hearing impairment attending functions in the room.
An exciting social event is planned for November – a French themed evening with live music and snacks will be something to look forward to.
In addition, we are pleased to announce that Yoga, Tai Chi, Creative Writing, Computer classes. Sign language classes and Evening Welsh classes will be starting this Autumn to compliment our already busy programme of activities.
I would like to say a huge to say a huge thank you to all the present committee members, who, through a very busy and often challenging year, have worked together to ensure the building is fit for purpose and one every one should be proud of . While all the committee members play their part there are some I would particularly like to mention in this report.
Sue Shaw, our treasurer until May of this year, was methodical and meticulous – all the traits of a good treasurer – and this was despite her reservations about doing the job. Thank you Sue and we’re glad you’re standing again for the committee.
Bob Andrews, a valued committee member and town councillor, has agreed to be our new treasurer. We’re delighted to welcome to the post the first treasurer to look on it not just as a challenge but as something he would enjoy doing.
Connie Adams has had a big input in helping to develop a Business plan and has been part of the strategy to develop a play leader.
Phil Grierson has developed the Friends of the Comm initiative and has been part of the Flicks sub group but has decided to stand down from the committee.
Michael Harding, who is also Deputy Mayor, brought skills as a surveyor and knowledge of the technical side of the building works as well as having a big input into the bar.
Dave Alker came on board as our H&S officer but with his wide range of practical skills and technical know-how has found himself working at the Comm almost on a daily basis – not to mention his management of the bar.
Dominique Jones, our brilliant fund raiser, cannot be thanked enough. Despite a very busy “day job”, she has almost single handedly obtained massive grant funding for the Centre and, as the longest standing member of the present committee, has kept the dream alive of transforming the Comm into the building it is today.
I especially want to thank Liz Reynolds, our Vice Chair. I genuinely could not have survived as Chair without the support and common sense approach of Liz, in addition to which her approach to volunteers is exemplary. Anyone who knows Liz recognizes her commitment not only to the Comm but also to Knighton. Sadly, she is stepping down from the committee but assures me she will be carrying on as a volunteer.
Finally I’d like to say a big thanks to Ruth Forrester, who, while not a committee member, has taken up the mantle of minute taker and been both the innovator and organiser of the Tuesday Café concept with all that it entails. She is passionate about facilities for families and children - hence the work she is doing around funding a playworker.
Our volunteer numbers continue to increase and they too are a joy to work with, willingly giving their time to the community café, Flicks, Tuesday café, bar, our own events, library and other activities. In addition the committee is grateful to TVEG who created our beautiful herb garden outside the Reynolds Room and continue to maintain it for us.
If only a few more volunteers with enthusiasm would come forward, some of the pressure on our hard-pressed committee could be alleviated.
The present members who are willing to stand again, if unopposed, are Dominique Jones – Chairperson, Dave Alker – Vice Chairperson and Health and Safety, Karen Plant – Secretary, Cllr Bob Andrews – Treasurer, Cllr Michael Harding, Sue Shaw, Connie Adams, Roger Bright and Cllr Roy Williams. Ruth Forrester is willing to stand as a Children’s and Family Development Officer and has kindly agreed to continue as our Minutes Secretary. New candidates have put themselves forward for consideration, namely Neil King, Thomas Clough and Fiona Roper. Additional to those standing, the committee is currently joined by County Councillor Angelique Williams and Mayor Nick Johns, whose attendance is much appreciated.
My husband Christopher, who is not a committee member, continued until the appointment of Ceri, 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. In addition he manages and regularly updates our very comprehensive website and Facebook page. These resources, more than anything else, have continued to be excellent ways of reaching out to people and promoting activities. 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 had to deal with bookings and maintenance issues in the Comm.
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 after all that has been achieved in the last year, remains dependent on the community to show its support and commitment if it wants its Centre to stay open and continue to evolve into a Community Hub valued by all Knightonians.
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.