Maintenance Co-ops Project gets the go-ahead!

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The aim is to help volunteers at the sharp end of maintenance to help each other. 

Places of worship are integral to the landscape, representing centuries of belief, craftsmanship and design. Yet many of our most precious faith-related buildings are in desperate need of repair and rely on the help of local supporters. The Maintenance Co-operatives project aims to connect, inform and empower the people who look after these buildings.  Along with protecting significant historic structures, the project will also encourage more people to become actively involved in their local community’s heritage while broadening and strengthening their own skills base. The HLF has awarded a grant of £907,400 towards a total project cost of £1,202,050, enabling the Maintenance Co-operatives project to start in the spring of 2013 and run for three years.

The local maintenance co-operatives that will be set up as part of the project will allow people to share ideas, resources and good practice as well as benefiting from peer-to-peer support. Groups will also benefit from a tailored training programme designed to meet local needs and interests.  Training will be freely available to volunteers interested in learning heritage-related skills and will include topics such as:

  • building maintenance
  • understanding traditional building materials
  • working with professionals
  • project planning
  • welcoming visitors

The project is intended to build capacity at community level and will target five key areas of the country – Lincolnshire, Cumbria, the North East, Worcestershire/Herefordshire and Dorset/Somerset. In each of these areas the aim is to set up a minimum of five local maintenance co-operative groups. The groups will also be linked together as part of a national network that will allow the benefits of the project, and its tools and resources, to be disseminated to other regions in the UK.  In addition, the project will provide new web-based and printed educational resources for a range of audiences.  These resources will help to promote the timely and effectively maintenance and repair of building fabric following SPAB founder, William Morris’s advice that we should aim "to stave off decay by daily care".

The Maintenance Co-operatives project will be delivered with the support and assistance of a number of national partners including:  English Heritage, the Arthur Rank Centre, the Churches Conservation Trust, the National Churches Trust and the War Memorials Trust.  At a local level the project will be supported by the Places of Worship Support Officers in the participating Church of England dioceses and by a number of other local organisations including the Churches Trust for Cumbria, Inspired North East, the Avon & Somerset Probation Trust and the Heritage Trust for Lincolnshire.

The scheme is a successor to the SPAB’s highly successful HLF-backed Faith in Maintenance project which ran for 5 years between 2007 and 2012 and delivered 150 training courses to around 5,000 volunteers with a responsibility for the care of historic places of worship.

At a national level the new scheme will also build on the success of the SPAB’s annual National Maintenance Week campaign, using the dedicated week as the focus for an annual conference and networking event to enable people from across the country to meet and share best practice.

This project heralds the beginning of a new and exciting phase for the SPAB as we will be recruiting eight new part-time members of staff.  As a result we will have a much more visible presence in the regions and will be able to spread the SPAB’s philosophy of regular maintenance and sensitive repair to a much larger audience.  Importantly, the project will also acknowledge and celebrate the valuable contribution to the upkeep of our ecclesiastical heritage made by volunteers in communities across the UK. The SPAB has always recognised the deep reservoir of good will and enthusiasm that exists within our communities and we hope that our Maintenance Co-operatives project will nurture, enhance and develop this resource. Our intention is that it will encourage people to get together, get involved and get stuck in, knowing that there will be a source of support, information, advice and assistance at the ready.