Thank you

We launch tomorrow, so now feels like a good time to thank some people.

First, to Philip Gibbs and all at LFCA past and present for keeping up the pressure and making sure that Love’s Farm got the community centre it deserved. To George Yazigi, Ed Norton and Colin Chaplin, who along with me (Ben) formed a subteam back in January 2014 to develop plans and liaise with HDC. To Mark Houston and Chris Allen, and later, Bill Tilah, Dan Smith, Joanne McMullough and Chris Stopford at HDC, who had the dubious pleasure of handling all our demands for the building. To Paul Dickens, Tim Jackson and all at Lakeview Village Hall for giving us some much-needed pointers as to what’s involved in launching and managing a community centre.

To our intake of volunteers in April 2014: Caroline Gregson, Claire Renwick, Rosie Ferguson, Rebecca Mitton, Emma Lovelock, Judith Sampson, Sarah Bentley, Emma Stevens, Annabel van Nieuwkerk, Sally Tilley, Kirsty Pitt, Maria Russo, Susi Cracroft, Caroline Henderson, Chris Pritchard, Cornelia Lucian and Femke Millership, all of whom have played or continue to play a vital role in shaping the community centre project. To Mandy Reeve, Maria Russo, Mennel Welch, Emma Lovelock and Matt Gooderham, who contributed to the design of our kitchen.

To Kim Burrows, Katie Baldwin, Carolyn O’Donell, Tegan Ryan, Nicky Dahl and all at BPHA for their on-going support. To Alan Turner and all at Hunts Forum for their training sessions, expert advice and moral support. To the dozens of county, district and town councillors who have argued our case, have given us financial backing and helped us in innumerable other ways. To Ed Reilly, Kevin Matthews, Donna Cooke, Katrina Conroy, Sue Ritchie and all at the St Neots Town Council office for all the times I’ve phoned up, turned up and generally made a nuisance of myself with complicated requests. To Sarah Gosling and all at WREN for their generous support and coping with even more complicated questions and requests.

To our founding trustees – Caroline Gregson, George Yazigi (and me) – followed by nine more a few months later: Claire Renwick, Judith Sampson, Rosie Ferguson, Helene Tame, Eleanor Whalley, David Ruff, Barry Chapman, Emma Lovelock and Rebecca Mitton. To Anne Jones at Pippins and Jacqui Huckle and Gerald Clutterbuck at 19 for their invaluable guidance on the subject of community coffee shops. To Adam Livermore and all at Atkins for designing such a fabulous building, and for welcoming our contributions to the design. To Lee Davis, Andy Gale, Paul Evans, Marc Jeffries, Andy Holland, Jason Davenport and the hundreds of other people who were involved in construction.

To all our regular hirers and session providers: Keela Shackell-Smith, Sarah Morgan, Lucy Knights, Anna Crompton, Katy North, Sarah Knights, Rebecca Mitton, Penny Marsh, Nicky Booth, Nicky Munro, Emily Smith, Declan Tonks, Helene Tame, Karen Dickinson, Jenny Barrett, Amy Barron, Max O’Keefe, Annie Morton, Sue Batchelor, Vicki White, Angie Robertson, Mark Hawking and Catherine Fairholm. Can’t wait to get started.

To Patryk Gacorysiak, Damian Wawrzyniak, Anna and Steve Thompson and especially Ross Millership and Rebecca Mitton for building acoustic panels into the early hours, night after night over the last week. To Caroline Gregson and Judith Sampson for stepping up to do the jobs no one else wants to do. To Eleanor Whalley for being wise and hilarious. To Jonathan, Helene and all the Tame family for their dedication and positive energy. To Rebecca Mitton and David Ruff for being frighteningly hardworking and efficient, particularly over the last month. To Emma Lovelock for bringing her wealth of experience and dedication to everything she does. To Marcus Pickering, who has been a constant source of wisdom and support for Love’s Farm House and so many other projects in and around Love’s Farm.

To Kirsty, Bethany, Finn, Hattie, Margaret and James Pitt for their love, support and generosity in allowing me to be a very distracted husband/father/son over the last couple of years, and to the families of all our volunteers.

I hope it’s been worth it. We find out tomorrow!

Taking Stock

LFH coffee cupWe’ve just taken delivery of our coffee cups. That might not seem very exciting to people reading this blog but for us it’s another checkpoint on our journey from having an idea about a community centre to the reality of being open for business. Meanwhile, construction of the building is coming along nicely. It looks pretty much complete from the outside. Inside, the under-floor heating and concrete screed are down, internal walls are going up, wiring and ventilation are going in. We’ve been told there may be a delay to the connection of the electric and gas supply but we’re really hoping this won’t upset our plans to be open in September. It’s likely that activity on site will quieten down over July and August, but please be assured that we’re doing everything we can to be open as soon as possible. construction-Jun15-aA few people have asked what’s happening with the new preschool. This will be managed entirely separately to Love’s Farm House, and we’re still waiting to hear who our neighbours will be. The tender is being managed by Cambridgeshire County Council and a decision is due imminently. There’s a huge amount going on behind the scenes with our trustees and other volunteers. We’re working on our website and marketing strategy, planning the launch festival, applying for licenses and dozens of other tasks in anticipation of launch. We now have a busy calendar of events with 28 weekly sessions pencilled in, and we’re in the process of turning these into confirmed bookings. We’re looking forward to sharing details with everyone soon. It’s not too late to get in touch if you’re interested in running a session, or know someone who might be – please email construction-Jun15-cWe’re placing orders for furniture, kitchen equipment, garden supplies, AV and IT equipment, cleaning equipment, signage… our shopping list currently runs to over 350 orders. A huge thanks to St Neots Town Council for their financial support with this. It would simply be impossible to do it without them. A big thanks to BPHA, our local housing association that has always been a key supporter of Love’s Farm Community Association and Love’s Farm House. We’ve just received funding from BPHA to continue the Love’s Farm Youth Club at the Farm House, and also to launch a new youth project for 14- to 18-year-olds. Watch this space for more details. construction-Jun15-bAnd big thanks too to HDC, which owns the freehold to Love’s Farm House and is overseeing its construction. We’ve had our ups and downs over the months and years as both parties have struggled to make the community centre a reality, but we’re hugely grateful that HDC has stuck with it and that we’re finally in sight of the finishing line.

Hire fees

After many months of research and discussion by our trustees, we’re finally ready to publish our hire fees.

Hire fees 130515

Sorry, we know it’s a bit complicated! We’ve done our best to set prices in line with our mission statement and without completely confusing everyone. Non-profit means events that are open to the public where no profit is generated by the hirer or where any profits go to charity. Commercial means events that are open to the public and run to generate a profit. Private means business use, parties and so on where the event is not open to the public. Exclusive use means use of the hall and foyer, plus (at the discretion of trustees) the kitchen, garden and meeting room.

There will also be special prices for private parties at weekends:

£50 for a children’s party, 2 hours with 30 minutes set-up and clear-away either side. This will be available on Saturday 11am-2pm, 2-5pm and on Sunday 12-3pm, 3-6pm.

£200 for a Saturday night event, 6pm-12am.

£350 for a Saturday all day event, 11am-12am.

There will be a few other costs, such as for the kitchen and for events that require security staff. Further details will be published shortly along with our full terms and conditions for hire.

We have already had a lot of interest from both groups and individuals wanting to hire Love’s Farm House and will be in touch with all those people in the next few weeks to confirm bookings and take deposits. If you’re interested in running an activity (or know someone who does) please get in touch as soon as possible and we’ll try to fit you in.

New trustees

Love's Farm House logoIt’s been a busy month for the volunteers of Love’s Farm House. We now have a logo, Mission Statement and updated business plan, and have been making good progress on our policies and procedures. We’ve had meetings with HomeStart and St Neots Children’s Centre to discuss how Love’s Farm House can support young families. We’ve been talking to lots of other service providers, and our provisional weekly schedule of activities is already looking pretty packed.

On 12 March the number of trustees for our charity increased from three to 13, the maximum allowed under our constitution. It’s something we’ve been looking forward to since we first registered our charity in June last year, and it’s wonderful to have such a talented, hardworking team in place. There are lots of other brilliant volunteers working towards the launch of Love’s Farm House, with more joining every month. It’s a good job too, as there’s masses to do before we open: web development, marketing and PR, plans for the café area, confirming hire prices and accepting bookings, buying equipment, obtaining licenses and permits, planning the launch festival, landscaping the garden… the list goes on.

The WREN application, ready to post.

The WREN application, ready to post.

We’ve submitted an application to WREN, which provides funding for community projects. We’ve requested money for furniture, kitchen appliances and music, lighting and projection systems. We’ll hear in August whether we’ve been successful. This application and the supporting documents are the work of a dozen volunteers and have taken 10 months to complete – a huge thanks to everyone involved.

Construction is on schedule. There’s now a concrete floor, scaffolding has been erected and breeze block walls are going up. There’s a satisfying parallel between the building slowly taking shape and the way that our project is moving from getting ourselves organised to making concrete plans.

Construction 14 March

Breezeblocks 14 March

Town Council funding secured

St Neots Town Council has pledged to support Love’s Farm House to the tune of £55,000. The money will be critical in helping us turn an empty building into a fully fledged community centre. £45,000 goes towards fixtures and fittings, including furniture, kitchen, office and IT equipment. The money will also be used to upgrade certain elements of the building’s specification, such as improving the quality of the flooring and installing additional power sockets and light fittings.

There’s a further £10,000 for our pre-launch costs, including professional fees, licenses, deposits and starting inventory. The Council has also offered to contribute towards marketing and our launch festival, and to provide manpower for garden landscaping.

It’s a tremendous show of support, and one that we feel reflects the Town Council’s commitment to supporting our community centre and Love’s Farm in general. We still have some further fundraising to do, but this generous funding means we can now be confident that we’ll be ready to take on the management of the building when construction is complete. We’d like to say a huge thank you to all the councillors and staff at St Neots Town Council for their support.

Meanwhile, we have signed an agreement to lease with Huntingdonshire District Council, which ties both parties into entering into a 30-year lease once the building is complete. There’s no going back now!

Café research

19-coffee-houseHelene, Judith and Ben from the Love’s Farm House volunteers team went to Cambourne this morning to meet the managers of 19 – The Coffee House. It’s located in the foyer of Cambourne Church and is run entirely by volunteers. It’s been in operation for four years and is now open six mornings a week serving tea, coffee, snacks and lunches.

It was great to meet the managers Jacqui and Gerald, and see them making such a great success of the venture. The coffee shop is well used on a daily basis, and is clearly a valuable community resource for the residents of Cambourne. It was really useful hearing about the successes and pitfalls they’ve encountered, and to have a look around their kitchen.

PippinsA couple of weeks ago we visited another volunteer-run coffee shop. Pippins is based at the community room in Hardwick Primary School on the first Saturday of the month. Its manager Anne Jones clearly runs a tight ship with her team of cake bakers, serving staff, washer uppers and other helpers. In a separate meeting she provided us with lots of useful information, particularly regarding setting up a coffee shop from scratch and working with teams of volunteers.

The common thread to both places is a sense that they’re there to serve the community first and foremost. That’s partly through high quality food and drink at reasonable prices, but also with friendly service and a sense of comradeship that comes from working as a team of volunteers. It’s still early days for Love’s Farm House, and a decision is yet to be made as to how we will use our kitchen and café facilities, but 19 and Pippins are interesting case studies for how we could make it work.