Thursday, 31 December 2009

Charitable Company Formed

Shortly before Christmas we took a major step forward in the Group's development with the establishment of a charitable company (Bemerton Community Ltd.), and we have now begun the process of registering with the Charity Commission. Once this is done we can start some serious fundraising.

Many people will look back on 2009 as the year in which St. John’s church was closed for regular worship. But it was also the year that saw the formation of our Group and the start of our attempt to secure a realistic future for the building. It was only recently, when preparing to tell our local City Councillors how we were getting on, that we realised how much has been achieved in the nine months since the public meeting about St. John’s on 30th March.

We are most grateful to all those who have either helped or supported our work in that time, and especially those who have made small donations to get us started.

We wish a Happy New Year to all our readers, and look forward to 2010 as the year in which our plans for the future of St. John's begin to take shape.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Questionaire Response

We had a very good response to our questionnaire, and thank you to all those who took the trouble to fill one in for us. We’re still working on the data, but already we can see that the results will give us a pretty clear idea of what sort of activities local people would like to see St. John’s used for.

Our next major task is to work out how the building might be altered inside to cater for as many of these activities as possible, and what sort of facilities will be needed. Once this is done we can move on to outline designs and costings.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Successful Public Meeting

We were very pleased that over 60 people came along to our public meeting on September 28th in the Bemerton Club. We were able to tell everybody a bit about the Bemerton Community Group, how it was organised, and what we had been doing since the previous meeting in March.

In our presentation we talked about the church’s formal change of use of the main part of St. John’s, our efforts to find out what sort of things the building could be used for, what kind of alterations are likely to be needed, and where the money to fund our project might come from. We also explained what we need to do next. After the presentation there was a short break for refreshments, and then we had a very useful question and answer session.

In the last couple of weeks we have been circulating a questionnaire as widely as we can within the local community to find out what activities people would like the building to be used for. If you haven’t already received it, please get hold of one and fill it in - we want to know your views. On the back of the form is a list of places where you can drop it off when you’ve filled it in. If you want to complete the form online, go to:

We need the forms completed by no later than 31st October.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Holiday Season Progress

Despite the holiday season, the Group has still been busy looking ways of converting the church building into a community centre. Now that the parish has made a formal request for partial deconsecration, we can get on with turning the Group into a charitable company so that, as trustees, we can collect and hold the funds needed for the conversion. We are now trying to work out how much money we will need to raise.

Thanks to all those who filled in survey forms for us, either at the School Fete or the Bemerton BBQ, we were able to gather some initial ideas about how St. John’s might be used by the local community. Although this was just a pilot study, it has helped us to design a better questionnaire which is now being circulated throughout the local area. If you receive one please fill it in, even if you completed one of our earlier forms. We need to know your views.

We promised to hold another village public meeting and this will be in the Bemerton Club on Monday 28th September, when we will let everyone know how the Group is getting on and what we plan to do next.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Latest News

The Bemerton Community Group continues its work to secure a future for St. John’s. We have decided to ask the parish to have most of the building deconsecrated, which will allow it to be used for community activities while still retaining the chancel for religious worship. Although this autumn will see the end of regular services at St. John’s for the foreseeable future, there will still be occasional services there (at Christmas, for example) and the church will definitely remain open.

While there is still a long way to go before we know what the converted church building will look like inside, there is no intention at this stage to make any significant changes to the exterior so from the outside St. John’s should look much the same after any alterations. It is difficult to predict when the conversion work will be done, but in order to avoid any disappointment no bookings for weddings at St. John’s will be taken from October 2010 until at least the end of 2011.

What we do know is that the conversion will cost quite a lot of money and one of the task teams set up by the Group is finding out what grants might be available. We shall also need to raise some of the cost by local fundraising, and the Group will make a start on this at the Bemerton St. John's School Fete on 4th July.

Another of the task teams has put together a questionnaire to gather ideas from the local community for possible uses of the converted building. They will be widely distributed locally and will also be available at the School Fete. Please get hold of one and fill it in – this is your chance to say what you would like us to do with the converted building.

We still intend to report back with detailed proposals to a village public meeting in September.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Task Team Activity

The three task teams have all met recently to start looking in detail at some of the issues involved in securing a future for St. John’s.

The User Team has now met twice. On the first occasion they discussed the existing provision of local venues for meetings, youth groups, parties and other activities, and agreed to undertake a fact-finding programme. At its second meeting the team started to put together a questionnaire that will be circulated to all local residents to find out how they would like to use a community venue.

The Project/Building Team has brought together a range of expertise in church architecture, building projects and services, surveying and finance. Their first meeting discussion was wide ranging and took into consideration many of the issues affecting the future use of the building. The group also looked at the installation of mains services, internal alterations, disabled access, WiFi access and parking.

The Fund raising and Marketing Team has also met and has started to compile a database of potential funding sources and to think about imaginative and innovative ways of asking the community to contribute. While it is envisaged that most of the funding will come from grants and trusts, it is important that everyone locally has a stake in what we hope will be a great new community facility.

The Group is now starting to put together a business plan, and hopes to report back with detailed proposals to a Bemerton village meeting in September.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Bemerton Community Group Meeting

We've now had the first meeting of the Bemerton Community Group, set up to look at conversion of St John’s for community use. I was elected Chair of the Group for remainder of 2009.

Our first thought was to say thank you to the more than 60 people who have volunteered to help – they will be hearing from the Group! And we also wanted to thank all the people who helped to distribute the 2,500 flyers about the public meeting on 30th March: it was most important in getting such a very good turn out.

The Group has set up three Task Teams which will each consider one aspect of the work needed to realise our dream of a wonderful new community facility at St John’s:

  • The User Team will be looking at the need for the facility and the ideas for using it. This group is being co-ordinated by Terri Scott-Jupp who says that they will be getting in touch with as many people as possible for views and ideas.

  • The Project/Building Team will be exploring the possibilities and constraints on the physical changes to the building and will be co-ordinated by Roger Eagle. Among other things they will be exploring green options.

  • And the Fundraising/Marketing Team, co-ordinated by Anne Trevett, will begin to look at funding possibilities. We will be looking for grants from Trusts and Foundations but are very aware that all of these will be looking for evidence of local community support and fundraising.

The three Task Teams will be working separately and together to produce a viable plan to present at the next planned village public meeting in September 2009. The Group will meet again on 26th June to review progress. In the meantime, let us know if you would be interested in working with or assisting any of the teams.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Preparing for the 1st Working Group Meeting

Hope you saw the piece in the Journal on April 9th - quite good except for the lack of reassurance about the graveyard. Let me re-iterate - nothing is going to happen to it.

3 weeks today since the meeting, so I expect some of you want to know what's been going on (apart from Easter services and all that..). Well, the beginnings of a working group have been drawn together - a possible 13 of us are going to meet on May 1st to plan the next steps - marketing, business plans, feasibility, funding... 

Also the minutes of the 30th March meeting have been written up in 2 sides - I was going to attach it to this, but apparently blogs don't work that way, so just email me/ send a comment and I'll mail it to you.

Welcome if you've found us from facebook - somehow we need a link between the two sites I feel!

Still a mountain to climb to save St.John's, but it feel a whole lot more possible now than it did at the start of the year. Thanks everyone.  


Thursday, 9 April 2009

Working Group

It was great to have so many people from the local Bemerton community at the recent public meeting, and we now have enough volunteers to form a Working Group of about a dozen supporters. We'll be contacting them in the next few days to arrange a initial meeting, so that we can start making plans for the future of St. John's.

We'll use this blog to keep everyone informed about our progress, and will be in touch individually with all those who came to the meeting and have offered to help.

It's not going to be easy, but by finding new and imaginative uses for the church building, St.John's can and will be saved for future generations.

First steps

After the succesful meeting on Monday 30th March, it was suggested that we should be using the internet to highlight the plight of the church and gain support.

A blog, with several contributors could be a way of letting people know what is going on and gathering a community. This is only the start and hopefully something great will grow from this small seed.