Achieving the aim of saving the old hall that had served the community for more than 120 years was always going to be a difficult challenge in normal circumstances let alone during a pandemic and a far-reaching economic crisis that made the securing of grant aid tricky!
What made the challenge possible was a number of critical elements:
- The fundamental joint venture between Church (the land) and Community (the determination and money)
- A single uncompromising vision to provide a new quality building that not only works for the majority but sits comfortably within its surroundings
- The incredibly generous support of the `Friends’ of ASTRA and their sheer unfaltering belief that ASTRA would deliver despite the many setbacks
- The dedication of the steering group supported by partners, colleagues, friends and family
- The enormous hard work of the core team of volunteers and professionals many of who gave time, profit and expertise to this worthy cause
- The main grant providers who listened to the many pleas for help and finally awarded what sums they could afford:
- Milton Keynes Council
- National Lottery Community Fund
- MK Community Foundation
- All Churches Trust
- The individuals who contributed most generously with large specific donations just when the project was at risk of floundering (you know who you are)
But, deliver the new Community Hall we certainly did!
It has taken eight years and has cost almost £1/2million but a new public building has been delivered to the community, not just complete but fully equipped and more to the point fully paid for!
The new Bow Brickhill Community Hall now stands stronger than ever and resplendent thanks to the commitment and dedication of two fundamental contractors our own FJ Morris Contracting and Liskandas (Off-Site timber manufacturers of Lithuania). The community appears to love the building design thanks to CMI Architecture of Milton Keynes and London. The building works exactly as designed, and now provides exceptional `dual use‘ accommodation thanks to the contributions along the way of those who are now using the facility. The building exudes quality and as if to endorse this fact, Bow Brickhill Community Hall was shortlisted as `International Offsite Project of the Year’ being pipped at the post by a multimillion-euro scheme in Stockholm `Forta PRO – Kvarteret Jylland Student Accommodation’!
So, what now?
In the beginning, I said,
“Of course, the journey doesn’t end when ASTRA hands over the keys of a fine-looking, highly practical and low maintenance new building to the community. Indeed, the opening of a new hall will simply be the continuation of a century-long journey for the community of Bow Brickhill.”
Well, our new Community Hall stands ready to serve the future generations of Bow Brickhill for the next 120 years. Going forward it needs the community to support and cherish it via the newly formed independent Management Committee. I’m not sure who said `Many hands make light work’ but that, in essence is what it’s all about now! It needs the community to now engage energetically, not on the scale required to rebuild the hall (that is done), but simply to maintain it for our children’s children as the builders of the original hall envisaged in 1898.
Of course, latterly raising £1/2million has been a battle and it would be wrong of me to suggest anything different but it has also been huge fun and just look what has been achieved during this list of events- hundreds of thousands of £pounds for vital community causes and more importantly hundreds of you coming together to support and enjoy each other’s company. We saved a village Church Tower and we saved a village Hall – that is just awesome!
- Bah Humbug Auctions
- Burns Nights
- Caribbean Nights
- Trafalgar Nights
- an evening with Charlie Ross
- Cheese & Wine
- Alastair’s Jalori Curry Nights
- Easter Egg hunts
- Foodie Nights
- Flea Markets
- Gala and Garden parties
- Woburn Golf Days
- Heritage Open days
- Horne’s Brewery Nights
- Manx Nights
- St David’s Nights
- Murder Nights
- Paella evenings
- Prince & Pauper
- Pass the £1
- Promises Auctions
- Question Time
- Scrap Metal collections
- St Patrick’s Nights
- An Evening at The Stag
- Star Gazing
- The Time Line
- Whiskey Raffles
- supporting Willen Hospice and many others
`Together wE do Achieve More’
So, thank you for your faith in in these community -led projects. Thank you for your trust and thank you for making the achievement of so much possible.
Alan Preen – Chair of ASTRA Community Projects, Project Lead and Development Manager
ASTRA Community Projects
ASTRA Community Projects is all about building and consolidating local community activity and spirit.
Its focus right now is to replace the ailing Church Hall with a well designed modern structure to serve the growing village community for another hundred years or more.
It is an urgent requirement because the existing building is in significant decay and fails to meet fundamental health and safety standards.
To save the old `Church Hall’ before it is too late
As a result of its past success ASTRA’s ambitions have grown over the years driven by community need, deteriorating village structures, and an onslaught of threats to the very identity of the village. You won’t be surprised therefore to hear that ASTRA’s journey at times has been a long and tough haul to repair so much with so little. But our small rural community responded not once only, but time and time again in the face of challenge and disappointment.
Saving the fragile Hall, founded in Victorian times, was always going to be difficult. However when the professionals deemed the structure unsafe and unrepairable, the scale of work, indeed the size of required budget brought sobering thoughts to the fore. This was to be a serious test of perseverance and determination. Once you start rebuilding you have to finish it and this time, just as in the church tower project, ASTRA responded to avoid the danger of structural collapse. It was a timely intervention, adding urgency to the whole undertaking.
However, we didn’t fully anticipate the benefits generated by the many obstacles and setbacks. The amazing events organised by ASTRA raised spirits, improved community cohesion, built new and strengthened existing relationships, made people feel needed in the community, and created a lot of fun and smiles.
Of course, the journey doesn’t end when ASTRA hands over the keys of a beautiful new Hall to the community. Indeed, the opening of a new hall will simply be the continuation of a century-long journey for the community of Bow Brickhill.
For all of us involved in saving this much loved building it’s a poignant reminder this project is not really about a building, it’s about building our community.
Chair of ASTRA Community