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Blackwells – The Village Club: An Update

19th of April 2005

It is amazing how quickly time flies by and whilst it may appear that not much has been happening during this past six months, this is not the case. Caroline Smith and her team (particular thanks to Tom Conway) have been conducting workshops intended to “sound out” the Village in more depth as to their views and requirements for the building and in particular the gym which has until now been such a pivotal part of the plans.
To our surprise the requirement for a gym came very low in the list of priorities. The main requirement continues to be for a modern and convivial meeting place where friends and families of all age groups can meet and socialise coupled with a series of rooms/facilities where meetings can be held and “homes” provided, for the various village organisations which at present have none. There is a strong wish for better facilities for the younger members of our community which marries in well with the Blackwell family’s original intentions.
The problem which the Trustees continue to grapple with is that whilst they wholeheartedly share these aspirations, the commercial realities of running such an enterprise on a voluntary basis cannot be underestimated. We see professionally run national pub chains for example, constantly having to re-launch to keep them fresh and attract custom. We have watched this building become almost moribund once in it’s lifetime and have no wish to see that happen again.
Whilst the refurbishment of the Dance Studio was an amazing achievement, those closely involved agree that it would be difficult to deal with the refurbishment of the rest of the building in a similar voluntary way. The Trustees have two present plans of action. Architects have been re-instructed to look again at the building and to advise on a range of options. In summary, these are to look at refurbishing the existing building, rather than extending but to keep in mind that this may become “phase 2″.
¥ how best to modernise the bar and to use its present space;
¥ look at reconfiguring the toilets to provide more comfort facilities, particularly for the ladies; review the requirement for a kitchen;
¥ to reconsider if the back room may be capable of refurbishment at reasonable cost to create an environment for the young.
¥ to look at the outside to see how that could be treated to make it more “welcoming” etc.
More particularly, they have also been asked to break these areas down into cost. It is hoped that these investigations will give us a much clearer idea of whether there is any chance of revamping the building to enable it to become a viable “business opportunity” at a cost which is not too astronomical.
Secondly, we have decided, tentatively, to look at the commercial market place just to see if there might be an operator out there who could bring to our “party” their entrepreneurial expertise and money to combine with our wish list.
Graham Holt, Chairman of the Trustees

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