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Bringing the church close to its community through an HLF projectIn a Nutshell
Wymondham Abbey is the 900 year old parish church of a small Norfolk town. We helped them shape a long-standing desire to enhance the Abbey’s facilities into a vision for its future in the community. Using this vision we brought together the plans for capital developments with ideas for how they would like to engage with their community, creating an application which won a round one pass from the Heritage Lottery Fund at National Committee level. We then developed their Activity Plan, bringing them much closer to their community in the process and uncovering wide-ranging opportunities for formal and informal learning partnerships. We also wrote the interpretation strategy, helped with fundraising and wrote their successful round 2 HLF application.
Wymondham Abbey is a nine hundred year old, Grade 1 listed parish church in Norfolk. Its rich and varied heritage includes an archive held on site that dates back 700 years, ruins of the Benedictine monastery from which it takes its name.
However the church has been essentially unchanged in nearly 500 years and it needed updating with modern facilities and more space. An early enquiry had been made of HLF who had said that funding an extension to the church would be a low priority. At this point A Different View was asked to help.
What we did
We started at a strategic level. Working with the Abbey’s team we dug deeper into their real ambitions for the future of their church and looked carefully at the church’s many different roles, from its spiritual mission to its desire to be a venue for wider community activities and to engage more deeply with people in the town. We helped them craft a vision and aims for their future which were personal to them, enhanced their core spiritual purpose and relevant to their audiences.
From this we helped them re-look at what they needed to do to move the vision forward. This involved re-looking at capital requirements but also how interpretation, activities, learning and volunteering were all needed to achieve their aims. With this thinking in place they went back to HLF who now warmly received their ideas. We created a Round 1 Application which was awarded a pass by the HLF national committee in 2011.
The Activity Plan Challenges
A Different View was then re-appointed to develop the Activity Plan (and procurement, fundraising and writing the round 2 submission). There were several challenges that the activity plan needed to address. These included the Abbey being perceived ‘removed’ from town-life by some, an enthusiastic but largely untapped schools market, an inaccessible archive not used in the learning offer, a lack of learning outcomes for visitors in general, and a volunteer base that wanted customer-care training.
We took an informal, collaborative approach to consultation and developing ideas. Many of the activities in the final plan were suggested by the community and volunteers, such as the creation of a medieval herb garden and bringing interpretation out into the church yard. We built links with the learning and outreach team at Norfolk Records Office to support the archive and develop joint learning programmes, as well as with U3A and other groups. We established a strong relationship with local schools and designed activities with teachers and pupils
We worked closely with the exhibition designer, using the research evidence to identify and develop interpretation. We created opportunities for celebration and coming together with the community during our work and in the delivery of the activity plan in the future.
The result was an imaginative Activity Plan, unique to the Abbey, its vision and its community and a strong set of relationships established throughout the community, during the process. The HLF gave a round 2 pass in March 2013.
"The involvement of A Different View in early 2010 gave new and refreshing impetus to those of us working on the Wymondham Abbey Development Project and their positive approach, initiative and guidance enabled us to re-focus on our vision and aims for the project. There is no doubt in our minds that we could not have achieved a successful first round pass from the Heritage Lottery Fund without the encouragement and expert input from A Different View. Working with them has been a delightful, rewarding and exciting experience!" Micheal Halls, Abbey Warden.
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