Reproduced below is the Knighton Community Centre Management Committee Chairperson's Report for 2015, delivered at the committee's AGM on Tuesday this week. As a summary of where the centre is at this moment in time and how it got here over the last 12 months, it is well worth a read.
This is my 6th year as Chairperson of Knighton and District Community Centre. For those of you who have attended AGMs on previous years I ask for your forbearance 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 but to see the future of the centre as integral to their and our community. There is a great deal of enthusiasm and a phenomenal commitment from members of the committee but, as in previous years I have to emphasise that, despite the Committee’s many achievements, we can often feel disappointed by the apparent local indifference 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 – why is this attitude not shared by many Knightonians? Without doubt there are problems with the building as it stands: it’s too big, badly designed, has challenging acoustics and a myriad of other problems which, you will hear later in the report, we hope to address with the aid of grant funding. Indeed we hope to transform the Comm into a place all of Knighton can be proud of.
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, so practical support from more volunteers can only improve this amazing community resource on which much else in the town’s life depends. In other words, let’s try and fix it together and recognize its amazing potential.
On a more positive note Powys County Council (PCC) continue to support us by assisting us with some outdoor maintenance and taking on our compliance programme which includes legionella testing, emergency lighting and signage, fire doors and extinguishers servicing, boiler servicing, PAT testing, stage lighting rigs, fixed electrics and roller shutters checking and certification. 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.
Dominique Jones, our Fundraiser on behalf of the rest of the committee, has worked extremely hard on both the Big Lottery and Welsh Assembly bids, which 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.
The last two years have felt a little like ‘Ground Hog Day’ – but at long last this year we can report a significant positive shift towards better news.
Since 2009 the Committee has had a strong and ambitious plan to create a thriving Community Hub. This vision is supported by a wide variety of organisations, many of which we already work in partnership with, but also there are others who are committed to working with us in the future, if and when the building is developed to become fit for purpose.
It is important to keep a strong focus on the vision because patience and tenacity to keep going is essential, particularly when you know what we are trying to do is so right for the Centre and the Community.
Creating a Community Hub is about so much more than a building. The core function will be to ensure that the most vulnerable in our community are supported to help themselves and that we minimise the impact of poverty on those on low income. However that will not take away from the vast range of activities that the Centre currently hosts and, we hope, will continue once the building has been refurbished.
For the cynics we have a clear message – the building is not sustainable in its current state and is literally one major infrastructure catastrophe away from closure. It needs extensive investment to bring it up to 21st Century standards and we are committed to continue our work to make the Centre fully sustainable (environmentally and financially).
The building is also much more than just a building in that the facility as it stands is not just an entity in itself but is used as a venue and focus for major fund raising activity for many charitable organisations in the town and surrounding district. We estimate that some £50k per year is generated by other charities as a direct result of being able to use the Centre.
To this end we have made it through the first round of the Big Lottery People and Places programme and have been awarded nearly £24k to work with our architects (Trioni of Aberystwyth) to get approved planning permission for a full refurbishment. This means that the Big Lottery recognises that the project has a very strong chance of meeting their criteria and, if successful, it will result in a full bid of nearly £500k (revenue and capital).
In addition, we have successfully got through the expression of interest round of the Welsh Government’s ‘Community Facility’ programme and we have just submitted our full business case which if successful will result in a further £500k investment.
We should also mention that Powys County Council has committed £110k towards the project and they continue to help us ensure that the building meets full health and safety compliance. This is a ringing endorsement and is fully in line with the One Powys Plan – a single integrate plan with all statutory and public services operating in Powys.
The ‘Big Ren’ project has four clear outcomes:-
Create a environmentally-friendly facility both internally and externally that is aesthetically pleasing, substantially reduces its impact on the environment, and has a sustainable long term future.
Reduce the impact of poverty and support people to improve their quality of life, feel less isolated and more able to meet their own health, social and economic needs. ·
Provide an enhanced asset to generate revenue and facilitate improved economic opportunities to both develop and sustain the Centre and the wider community. ·
Provide opportunities for people to gain new skills and confidence through volunteering, training, advice and guidance.
There have been some other smaller scale applications, for example, PAVO have awarded the Centre £2500 towards a ‘Cooking on a Budget’ project which has been highly successful and has provided childcare support for those attending.
Looking back over my 2014 report two important issues were raised:
1) re-negotiating a new lease;
2) changing the Management Committee’s status from a Charitable trust to a Company Limited By Guarantee.
The committee has finally signed a far more workable new lease with PCC which has enabled us to move forward with our two funding bids. As I said last year PCC have been very open and supportive on this issue.
Over the past year we have been operating as a Company Limited by Guarantee, which, as explained at the last AGM, meant the trustees become directors and have no personal liability if, in the future, the Centre became untenable. However, a relatively new entity is available which still limits trustees’ financial liability but only requires registration with the Charity Commission, so bureaucracy is reduced - thus improving our governance. If the new committee agrees to change our present entity from a Company Limited by Guarantee to a Charitable Incorporated Organisation, then an EGM would have to be called later in the year. At the EGM a resolution to change entities would be proposed and if accepted The Company Limited by Guarantee would be dissolved and a COI would be formed. There is information available but Dominique can explain its advantages in a little more detail. Again, hopefully such a change would encourage more people to come forward in the future to participate on the committee.
Events and Activities
I will now move on to the section of my report which highlights some of the events and regular activities that have taken place over the last year. We continue to strive to ensure that people have a positive experience when attending these activities, which are after all the rationale for keeping the Community Centre’s doors open. It is our core purpose that those activities should contribute to the general well-being of the community. The table below shows a list of events and activities and a breakdown of usage over the year 2014.
Analysis of Activities January to December 2014
Activity Types Number of sessions Hours usage
Adult Education: 32 101
Including first aid
Artistic: 51 163
•Flicks in the Sticks
Meetings 16 45
Children’s 20 43
Social: 13 65
• Private parties
• Fundraising parties
• Coffee mornings
• Formal dinners and balls
• Fashion shows
• Civic Lunches
• Bingo nights
• Community Carols
• WI show
Others: 121 431
• Town Show and Carnival
• PCC Cuts Consultation Day
• Community Markets
• Health Screening
• Leg Club
• Pain Management Clinics
• Blood Donation
• Table sales
• Funeral reception
• Christening party
• Slimming World
• Powys Advocacy Service
Sporting: 303 705
• Indoor Football
• Motorcycle rally
• Cycle rally
Looking at this list of events and activities which the Community Centre has to offer, I think you will agree the range and diversity are impressive.
Entertainment-wise the community could choose between the Teme Spirits production, fundraisers for Knighton Show and Carnival, musical events ranging from very successful live music evenings in the bar, the return of top Welsh folk band Mabon, brought back by popular demand, Knighton Silver Band, young people’s charity concerts, the very popular Little Big Band, the acclaimed Treorchy Male Voice Choir and for children, Captain Beaky.
Sports-wise Badminton, Karate, Zumba, fitness classes, and Yoga continued to be very popular regular activities, while the Centre is also used for annual cycle and car rallies.
Art classes ran from September 2014 to March 2015 with good attendance and are due to start again in September.
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 runs a regular well-being club every Friday morning. Volunteering on Prescription run occasional cookery classes which aim to teach new cooking skills in a sociable environment. Slimming World runs every Tuesday, another welcome addition.
The Comm continues to attract young couples wishing to have their wedding receptions here. The pictures show just how attractive the old place can look with lots of clever ideas and enthusiasm.
The Knighton Community Market, run by Christopher Plant and Tom Taylor, continues to thrive and has become a well established bi-monthly community event. It is much more than a market: it’s a lively place to socialise, listen to music and meet friends and family in warm and dry surroundings and is increasingly drawing visitors to the town.
The centre is vital for Polling Days and the Welsh Blood Collection service, 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. The Reynolds Room has been particularly ideal for Flicks in the Sticks film shows. The following report has been written by Sheila Taylor who, with her partner Roger Casstles, has on a volunteer basis, organised and run the hugely successful Flicks in the Sticks programme for which the committee are extremely grateful.
Flicks in the Sticks
Flicks in the Sticks has proved successful and popular, offering a diverse and varied selection of films, some light hearted, some serious, plus matinees for children. Several adults attended Paddington without children! None of the films have made a box office loss and most made a reasonable profit. The idea at the outset was not to be a fund raiser but obviously the Community Centre cannot sustain losses, especially at this critical time of planned improvements.
Powys has lost its funding from the BFI, though the Community Centre can continue hiring films through Arts Alive, who will continue to advertise on our behalf through their website, Broadsheep and Flicks in the Sticks booklets. We are negotiating purchase of a wall-mounted
screen for The Reynolds Room and have the use of a projector and sound system which will enable us to continue screening from this September until May 2016.
From September films will be shown on Sundays and, as well as the matinees for children, we plan to work with KINDA and some matinees will be films, probably musicals, with older residents and their families in mind though obviously everyone is welcome.
We have been fortunate to have our willing and hard working volunteers who serve refreshments and help to clear up afterwards. Thank you to them. All help is gratefully received, as are suggestions for future films.
Make a note in your diaries. The first film is on Sept 13th.
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 despite a slow start word of mouth spread and all the places on the course ended up being filled. We hope to run another course of classes in September.
Youth and family activities
The Committee continues 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 namely Laura Lunn, Sophie Watts and Catherine Cadwallader. Laura organised several young children’s workshops linked to the Community Market, which were extremely successful. Sophie was able to advise the organisers of cooking on a budget about child care provision. She is hoping to organise a Mother and Toddler group in the Reynolds room this August on a voluntary basis. In addition, as in previous years, the Young Farmers have run their own events in the Comm.
Lesley Smith from the Youth Service has been running a Drop In Session from the reception office for a trial period. The room hire cost has been absorbed by the Community Centre drawing on funds from the Police Commissioner’s Grant received in 2014. The plan was to move the Drop In to the Reynolds Room, and, in preparation for this, the room was upgraded by increasing the provision of power sockets and providing wifi. Unfortunately youth service budgetary constraints prevented the move from happening and so the Youth Service continues to use the office on a weekly basis.
Sadly, Knighton Community Support left us in June, in anticipation of the closure which the Big Ren building work will eventually necessitate, after over 10 years of our working alongside each other. We would welcome their return after planned renovations are complete and the hoped-for community Hub is up and running. In the meantime the committee wish them well in their new location in West Street.
For the first time the Comm has its own secure office. It has been painted and comfortable furniture, phone line and broadband added to enable us to try and encourage and welcome new and established volunteers. Since Community Support has left, the doors have no longer been open on a daily basis, so we are attempting to open the office once a week, on a Thursday initially, with the hope that we will be able to staff it for more days in the future. This has to be entirely run by volunteers as there is no funding available for paid staff. Liz Reynolds has kindly agreed to be our Volunteer Coordinator.
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. Rod Smith, our treasurer, will provide you with more details when he 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 organization, 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.
From September Welsh classes will hopefully be starting in the Reynolds Room and Dressing Room – a welcome addition to our other adult classes of yoga, zumba, fitness, art, badminton and cookery.
Hopefully live music in the bar will continue, organized by Nigel and Mick, using the Night Out scheme.
Excitingly a world class darts competition is taking place in September, organized by Andy Crowe.
Publican Andy Crowe has successfully run our bar since February 2014. He took control of the stock, which has been a great relief for the committee, and has staffed both very small bars for modest gatherings such as parties and after-funeral gatherings as well as the 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 June 2016.
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 many 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.
Sadly for the rest of the committee, two of our most stalwart members are stepping down this time, namely Rod Smith, our extremely efficient Treasurer and Health and Safety Officer, and Laura Lunn, our very creative Youth Project Coordinator. In addition, Catherine Cadwallader who was valuable in encouraging young families to use the Centre has had to withdraw due to her own family commitments. The committee members have enjoyed working with them and wish them the vary best in the future – we will miss you all.
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 – Fundraiser, Rochelle Russell – Secretary, Sophie Watts – Young Person and Families Co-ordinator, Roger Bright and Roy Williams. Two new candidates have been proposed, namely Paul Russell – to act as Treasurer and Dave Alkers – to act as Health and Safety Officer. No other names have been proposed. In addition, the committee is currently joined by County Councillor Peter Medlicott and Town Councillor Chris Branford, whose attendance is much appreciated.
Christopher Plant, my husband, who is not a committee member, continues to do a sterling job, on a voluntary basis as the booking and invoicing clerk/coordinator, invariably on the front line when problems occur. Having set up our marvellous website, on a tiny budget, along with our Facebook page, he manages and updates them frequently. These resources more than anything else have proved to be excellent ways of reaching out to people and promoting activities. For example, a recent posting on Facebook for Cooking on a Budget reached 565 people leading to a very successful outcome, while a posting about the volunteer office reached over 200 people. He also maintains the centre’s links with the local papers 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. TVEG, in particular, has created and maintained the beautiful herb garden outside the Reynolds Room. 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 taking forward the planning for the proposed Community Hub. Special thanks, as always to Fred Lewis, Mike Conway (now retired), Marty Jones and Julia Roberts (for kindly holding our keys) for their unstinting support for our Centre.
I could not finish without saying a big thank you to our dedicated cleaning staff who do a fantastic job of keeping the Centre clean. Their efforts 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, remains precarious. At the risk of repeating myself, 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.