Last night at the Community Centre AGM Chairperson Karen Plant presented the following annual report, summing up perhaps the centre's most momentous year since its construction back in the 1980s. The new committee, pictured above, has two talented and enthusiastic new members, Constance Adams and Phil Grierson. Karen Plant did, however, emphasise that she did feel that, while happy to continue as Chairperson for her 8th year, it would be highly desirable for longstanding committee members such as herself to be able to step aside as others with fresh ideas for taking forward the "Community Hub" concept come forward.
Chairperson’s Report 2017
Knighton and District Community Centre Management Committee
I have presented many Chairperson’s reports over the years but this one is definitely the most positive so far. The building speaks for itself – we now have a Community Centre brought into the 21st century, fit for purpose and one we should all be proud of. However, there is still much to be done and in light of that, as in previous years, I start with a plea to all the people of Knighton to support us. Your Community Centre desperately needs new volunteers - our present band of volunteers and committee need new blood to continue the project. We struggle on a day-to-day basis to keep the Centre running. How much more could be achieved if more people came forward? Put another way, let’s join together and recognize the Comm’s far reaching potential.
Dominique will explain in more detail about the fantastic funding we received from the Welsh Government, which enabled us to do all this, juxtaposed with the knock-back effect of being turned down by the Big Lottery. In addition PCC funded some of the cost of renewing the roof and also up to the point when the refurbishment started, continued to support us with our compliance programme which is essential for the safe and legal running of the Centre.
As most of you will be aware, the Comm had to close for refurbishment last November. Fortunately for us, Lt Col Hughes, Deputy Chief Executive of the Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association for Wales, agreed to allow us to use the Drill Hall for the duration of closure. This was a life-saver for us and, although some hirers left us, many remained and were happy with the arrangement. The logistics of moving over there were a challenge and once again much of the work was carried out by a few volunteers. Moving back was even more high-pressured because the building works were delayed and we were given only a small window of time to make the move.
I think for some, including myself and Christopher, the stress of being ready for both the Opening Ceremony in May and the Garden Day a few days later was definitely something we don’t want to repeat. BUT we did it and both events were a great success, as many of you can testify.
Events and Activities
As I have said before, but it’s worth repeating, 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.
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 2016, with the previous year’s figures shown in brackets.
Analysis of Activities January to December 2016
Last years figures in brackets
Activity Types Number of sessions Hours usage
Health and well-being:
I think it should be recognized that the disruption created by the closure has had an effect on the pattern of bookings over this period. The uncertainty around closure also meant we lost or had to turn down bookings over much of the year. Despite all the difficulties we’ve still managed to maintain a reasonable level of hirings in most categories.
Analysing overall we had made good progress in the area of adult education, artistic, social, health and well-being and sporting (though we have since lost badminton and fitness) activities. In area of health and well-being, the weekly Leg Club continued until closure (and have now we’re pleased to say returned to the Comm), Mid-Powys Mind ran a well-being club and the popular Slimming World have stayed with us both here and in the Drill hall. Where we fail to make significant progress is in encouraging young people and families to use the resource – they are sections of the community that are under represented in our activities and booking list, apart from wedding celebrations. As a result we plan to continue to promote the centre as a wedding venue enabling couples who wish to keep the celebration on a modest scale as well as those who wish to push the boat out.
As always the Centre is vital for Polling Days, the Welsh Blood collection services and large public meetings. All these functions benefit from our improved accessibility and adjacent car park.
In addition to the regular weekly and monthly activities and a long list of one-off events which have run from January to December 2016, I would like to briefly highlight some of the events which we have organized or been involved with during the first half of the 2017. Some were put on in the Drill hall and others in the newly revamped Comm.
Music event with The Mellstock Band
In December, the Drill Hall was given a festive makeover to host a magical Christmas event with traditional folk group The Mellstock Band. This was held on December 4th and was planned and put together by committee member Sue Shaw.
St David’s Day
This was a first for us but many of the committee felt it was long overdue for Knighton to celebrate St David’s Day. The afternoon was very successful with a basic Welsh language lesson, a quiz on all things Welsh, as well as Welsh songs and poems - with lovely Welsh cakes and bara brith adding to the fun. This was definitely an event we could like to repeat on an annual basis.
As I alluded to before, members of the committee and volunteers worked tirelessly right up until half an hour before the official opening to ensure the Comm was ready. Many invited guests attended and, after refreshments and short speeches, the Centre was opened by the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, followed by the ‘grand tour’. Later on the building was opened up to the general public giving Knightonians a chance to look around their greatly improved Community Centre and a very encouraging response was received.
Just to make sure we really put ourselves under pressure, we then went on a few days later to put on a Gardening Day – another initiative from Sue Shaw. As well as a wide range of static stalls, our community café, children’s crafts stall and music, a fascinating programme of talks and discussions was organized to run throughout the day. Our home–grown Gardeners Question time was just one of the activities that was keenly appreciated by the people who attended.
That same evening following the Gardening Day event we had our first live music in our new bar, with very highly rated American folk duo Ann and Elizabeth, proving that the bar is indeed a good venue for presenting acoustic music.
The Knighton Community Market, run by Christopher Plant and Tom Taylor, continues to thrive and has become a well-established bi-monthly community event. A special mention should be made about the Community café. After previous café proprietors David and Leonie Miller retired, the committee decided it would be a good idea to take over the running of the café, involving volunteers and, in the process generating much needed funds for the Comm. The café has proved to be a runaway success – the 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.
To say thank you to all our fantastic volunteers, we threw a party which included a wonderful spread and dancing. Hopefully this will become a regular annual event to celebrate our volunteers, without whom the centre could not survive.
The committee collaborated with a group of Knightonians who were keen to put on a rock night in the Comm, with the aim of encouraging a different group of people to enjoy what the centre has to offer. The event, on July 1st, was a great night and it is hoped a follow-up event will take place in November.
Flicks in the Sticks
For the period covered by this report, Sheila Taylor and Roger Casstles ran every aspect of the Flicks programme, from the technical aspects of screening to promoting the films to organizing volunteers, for which we can’t thank them enough. The audience numbers remained buoyant both in the Reynolds Room and when we moved to the Drill Hall. The films continued to show 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.
As in previous years I need to emphasise that accommodating all the previously mentioned activities comes at a cost. In previous years the cost of keeping open the biggest community centre in Powys needed approximately £2000 - £2500 per month. Hopefully with new heating system, double glazing and a new insulated roof, our fuel costs will be greatly reduced. However there are still 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, leaving only a small but much appreciated amount from Knighton Town Council.
The years begin to blend together and one has to check back to find in which year things actually took place. This is now towards the end of Dominique’s 9th year as the fund raiser for the committee (although she does do a few other things too) and the work done in the previous years has come to fruition in this last year.
In the 2016 report we shared that we had been awarded just below £500k from the Welsh Government and the committee was waiting with breathless anticipation on the outcome of the Big Lottery bid. The signs had been good: we had been awarded a development grant to do all the preparation design work and to get planning permission. So when it was announced we had not been successful it felt a big blow – that happened on October 5th.
However, not to be defeated, it was all hands on deck to come up with a compromise plan in order to make best use of the Welsh Government Grant. More detail on this is covered in the Building Renovation section of the report. It must be said that the Welsh Government stood by us and allowed us a little time to gather our thoughts and see if we could be confident of spending the money before then end of the 31st March 2017 whist ensuring we got a building that was fit for purpose and that got the very best value. For their faith in our vision we are most grateful.
Powys County Council also stayed faithful and continued to honour their commitment so we were able to count on their contribution towards the roof (£75 thousand) too.
At around the same time we had been in discussion with the Army Cadets about the Drill Hall because we knew we would have to vacate the Centre whilst the renovation took place. Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Hughes – Deputy Chief Executive of the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association for Wales (RFCAW) immediately bought into our vision of a Community Hub and was very supportive and instrumental in enabling us to use the Drill Hall throughout the build period.
As part of the ongoing discussions the RFCAW expressed an interest in co-locating in the Centre and were willing to make a capital contribution of £25k to renovate the rear of the building to include dedicated premises for themselves and to adapt the Reynolds Room for the Cadet drills.
William Watkins (of Radnor Hills Water) was invited to see the project in the hope that he might be able to help in some small way. Without hesitation he offered sponsorship to install electronic dividing doors to create the bar space and make it possible to reduce the size of the hall. This input of another generous £25k made the project even more viable.
Powys County Council had also been consulting about the future of the library service – its future was in question due to substantial budget pressures - and again KDCC saw an opportunity to save the Knighton Branch and so put in an Expression of Interest which the PCC Cabinet approved. However, it was on the proviso that Knighton Town Council financially supported the project with an annual contribution of £4k. We are hoping that this successful joint initiative will continue in order to help sustain the library long into the future.
However, we were still short on capital to co-locate the library and Dominique worked with the library service to put another bid to the Welsh Government, this time to the Museums, Archives and Libraries Division’s Capital Development Programme. Although by rights it should go in to next year’s report (coming after financial year’s end in March 31st) we will let you in to a secret (not a secret really): in May we were told the bid was successful and a further £120k was in place to create a brand new library.
So the funds to date for the Capital programme total £744,728.
It doesn’t stop there: a recent expression of interest to the M&S Community Energy Fund has been successfully short listed. The bid is for solar panels and in order to win we must campaign to gain public votes over other projects. That is where everyone must use their networks and social media contacts to help raise interest and gain votes – please look on the Knighton and District Community Centre Website or Facebook page to find out how to vote – the voting site goes live on September 4th.
In addition, as Dominique’s wounds at not getting the Lottery bid heal, she has vowed to submit for a 5th time, this time determined to get revenue funding for staff to help develop the Centre to its full potential and design and deliver activities to meet local need. That is this year’s challenge – so keep watching.
Notification came from the Big Lottery on the 5th October and we had to start thinking about moving out whilst also designing a compromise capital programme with the architects Trioni and Project Manager Bowen Consultants. Through an EU compliant open tender process, a builder had been appointed – JA Morgan and Son, who to our delight had family roots in Knighton though based in Llandrindod and who were willing to continue on a much smaller programme of work than the one they tendered for.
We vacated to the Drill Hall, a small band of volunteers with trolleys, trailers, car boots and dozens of boxes working for several days to clear the building for work to start.
A general design was agreed and work started early in November – in those first weeks the work progressed fast: walls came down and the size of the project became clear.
Most of the money has gone on things that are not visible to centre users: two new heating systems, new roof (with insulation) double glazing and total overhaul of the electrical system.
But some bits of the project have been transformational for the building: the walk way (which will have café tables and wifi and electrical points for people to hot desk, study or chill out), the new bar, the dividing doors in the hall, all new toilets, roof lights, new LED lighting and new flooring throughout. And then there’s the reception area, now bright, airy and welcoming.
Work is still ongoing, with lots of small finishing-off projects and the kitchen has just been renovated, with new flooring, new ceiling, repair to wipe-down cladding for the walls and some vital electrical work. Whilst again, to the naked eye, not much looks different, we know and Environmental Health will indeed notice!
The Library Service
The Library space is the last bit still to be finished and work continues to create a new space which integrates with the rest of the building, providing much more flexibility in relation to what the library service can do. The fitting out of the library is out to tender as we speak and once the foundation building work and electrics are complete the fit out will start. What a precious and exciting new resource for the town.
In addition, members of the Committee worked with the Library Service to draft the job description for a new librarian to ensure that the needs of the Centre and the Library could be jointly addressed. KDCC will be contributing towards the salary (although the member of staff will work for PCC) and for a few hours a week they will help to run the Centre and support the Committee in helping to develop the Centre.
On August 18th interviews took place with members of the Committee as part of the panel and we were delighted to appoint someone to the post who will start during September to shadow the current librarian, who is retiring, and will help prepare for the move when the new library is ready.
Charitable Incorporated Organisation Status (CIO)
We have now been a CIO for one year (the motion to adopt this status was passed at the last AGM).
We have been taken off the list of companies at Companies House and we are fully governed under CIO requirements.
To remind people why we chose this route, it is because there is a:-
Publican Andy Crowe continued to run our bar until the Comm closed for refurbishment in November, and under this arrangement we had received 10% of the profit on bars taking more than £300. Andy was very supportive of the Comm and understood the unpredictable nature of bar bookings. The committee appreciate the help and advice he has given us in developing the new bar we now have at the back of the hall.
The decision now facing us is whether the committee should run the bar again. Tom Taylor is our licensee as he has a personal license. In view of the fact that we have had very few bar bookings and once again face the difficulties entailed keeping the bar stocked and avoiding wastage, we may have to reconsider our options in the future.
HM Courts and Tribunals Service, Cardiff (HMCTS)
Now for something completely different …
HMCTS contacted us to discuss the possibility of holding magistrates court hearings in the Community Centre. This has now been agreed and the pilot hearing will take place on September 11th , the hearing consisting of Social Security and Child support tribunal cases.
The following is a statement from HMCTS :- Hearing Venue pilot sites are being identified in four HMCTS regions, Wales, the South West, Midlands, and the South East, and will run from September to November 2017. The pilots will be looking to test a number of locations in different types of venues for example local authorities, community centres, universities, village halls, other central government estate and serviced office accommodation. The pilots are looking to establish an agreed set of principles around Alternative Provision and its future deployment. Testing will be in a controlled environment that will have no adverse effect upon existing court hearings in neighbouring sites.
Flicks in the Sticks Autumn programme
While Roger and Sheila are unable to organise the Autumn programme of films, the committee has taken up the mantle so everyone can still enjoy a good film, with technical support from Arts Alive, complemented with a glass of wine/beer/tea/coffee and ice cream – yes, ice cream will be available. The programme has already been put together and will run from September 8th until December 8th.
Organised by Knighton and District Refugee Support Group, an ambitious programme of poetry reading will take place on September 9th from 11am until 9.30pm starting alongside the community market. A café and bar will be available. Although free to enter any donations will go towards the work of the group.
A fantastic band fusing klezmer with Balkan and Middle Eastern rhythms, Moishe’s Bagel is coming on 9th October. Having already played in Presteigne in the past they have a large fan base in the area – For anyone who likes dancing it will be an evening not to be missed.
Never let it be said we don’t cater for everyone! On October 21st we have a night of professional wrestling, advertised as fun family evening.
Last but not least the ever popular Zumba is coming back in September.
In addition to future events I propose to restart using the front of office for a weekly volunteer get-together every Thursday morning. It will give volunteers a chance to join together for a chat over tea or coffee and biscuits, to look at the diary of events and carry out practical but necessary jobs like gardening, litter collection and sorting out Comm equipment.
I would like to say a huge to say a huge thank you to all the present committee. We are a very cohesive and motivated group of people with many different skills and probably more importantly I think we enjoy working together.
Our volunteer numbers have increased and they too are a joy to work with, willingly giving their time to run the community café, Flicks 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. Many people helped us move our furniture and equipment over to the Drill Hall and back so again a big thank you.
If only a few more volunteers with enthusiasm would come forward, some of the pressure on our hard-pressed committee could be alleviated. Another exciting area where volunteers will be needed is assisting the library services.
Sadly Lynne Conway, who so brilliantly filled the role of treasurer from November 2015 until October 2016, has decided to step down from the committee but luckily for us has promised to continue as a volunteer. Another stalwart of the committee is Peter Medlicott. Although on our committee initially as the County Council rep he kindly stayed on as a co-opted member until the AGM. He has been a valued member of the committee able to give us the benefit of his legal expertise wherever applicable. The committee members have enjoyed working with those who are leaving and wish them the very best in the future.
The present members who are willing to stand again, if unopposed, are myself, Karen Plant – Chairperson, Liz Reynolds – Vice Chairperson and Volunteer Co-ordinator, Dominique Jones – Secretary and Fundraiser, Sue Shaw – Treasurer, Dave Alker – Health and Safety, Michael Harding, Bob Andrews, Roger Bright and Roy Williams. Two new candidates have put themselves forward for consideration, namely Constance Adams and Phil Grierson. Ruth Forrester has very kindly agreed to become our Minutes Secretary though not as a committee member. Additional to those standing, the committee is currently joined by County Councillor Angelique Williams. And Deputy Mayor Sally Vaughan, whose attendance is much appreciated.
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, the recent posting on Facebook regarding vandals breaking a window reached 6355 people at the last count. 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.
Very special thanks are due to Lt Col Stephen Hughes for his support enabling us to continue several regular activities at the army cadets’ Drill Hall during the refurbishment, and to William Watkins of Radnor Hills Water for his generosity and personal interest in the centre and our vision for its future. Thanks as always to Fred Lewis and Marty Jones for always being near at hand and Julia Roberts for kindly 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 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 of which Knighton can be proud.