Re-opening Welcome Hall

Current stage: Resubmitting

Collaborators

  • Zebra Collective
  • Fotonow CIC
  • Devonport Help a Neighbour

Collective’s aims and ideas

We are working to re-open Welcome Hall on Fore Street in Devonport as a community run centre. The building operated as a community centre until early 2020 when it closed due to the retirement of the manager, on whose goodwill the charity had relied for its continuing operations. The Council owns Welcome Hall and is willing to offer a 35 year lease at a low rental to a community led organisation, if we can show that we have local support and a feasible business plan. We are currently looking at financial feasibility, building redevelopment and community engagement. This bid focuses on community engagement. Our work is guided by Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) principles – seeking what is strong in communities and what people can contribute. We plan a summer of engagement where we will gather not only the views of local people on what they would like to see happening in Welcome Hall, but also how they can make this happen. To work towards this, we have set up a community group of local people who are already active in Devonport to input into planning of the community engagement. We have developed a questionnaire to guide conversations and set up a Facebook group which has very quickly attracted 250 members. We now need capacity to go out and have these conversations in a variety of local settings. In addition, we plan to run a project where local people will be supported to make a short film describing what Welcome Hall means to people, and their ambitions for it. This work is important to ensure that the project is community led from the start, and will also enable us to demonstrate to Plymouth City Council that the local community both wish to see Welcome hall re-opened, and want to be involved in making this happen.
We will produce a short film and report to show the findings of the community engagement.

How will they work together to achieve this?

We are working together as we all bring different, but essential skills to the project. Zebra Collective is working with the Council to secure the transfer of the lease of Welcome Hall to the community, and also has extensive experience of community work, both engagement and development, e.g. establishing and running time banks across poorer neighbourhoods in Plymouth from 2011-2017 (when this project became an independent entity), founding Plymouth Octopus Project in 2013 and developing it until October 2016 when it became an independent entity owned by the city’s community and voluntary sector; running resident engagement programmes in the context of large-scale housing regeneration in North Prospect (2012-15) and Barne Barton 2015-18). In addition, Zebra itself has been based in Devonport throughout its 18 years, and one member has been an resident and activist here for 25 years.

Fotonow brings together expertise in education, community development and media production to run creative projects that make a difference to people’s lives. Fotonow has undertaken multiple projects using photography and film to engage with people – in this project they will work with local people to support them to make a short film about Welcome Hall and what re-opening it would mean for the local community.
Devonport Help a Neighbour emerged as a response to the Covid 19 pandemic and is run by local people. Their local connections and ability to engage with local networks makes them an invaluable partner.
In our summer of engagement, the partners will work together and each fulfil the following roles:
Fotonow – run a project supporting local people to produce a short film about what re-opening Welcome Hall means to the community
Devonport Help a Neighbour and Zebra Collective – will be out in the community having conversations with local people at places such as shops, summer play schemes, Devonport Park, Mount Wise pools etc: we’ll be asking people about re-opening Welcome Hall, and what they could bring to the project (e.g. volunteering, being part of the Board, hiring rooms for their group etc)

During the first round, POP members will be asked to advise you. What advice would be most helpful?

Zebra has been working on this project since October 2019, and we’ve been developing this summer conversations engagement programme for some time. We have been soliciting thoughts from and collaborations with individuals, groups and organisations throughout, so that we now have a strong team and are confident in what we’re doing. Thus, we are not actively seeking further input.
However, of course all thoughts from other POP members, drawn from the wisdom of experience and knowledge etc., will be welcomed.