The Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) is dedicated to promoting the innovative re-use of historic buildings for the benefit of communities across the UK, particularly in economically disadvantaged areas. Many towns are facing a lack of job opportunities, especially for young and vulnerable people. Through its latest batch of early-stage grants, the AHF is pleased to support projects that will help generate new skills training opportunities and stimulate employment growth in their respective communities.
You can read more about two of the projects awarded funding below.
West Park Palace, Hull, Yorkshire, England
Built in the Classical style in 1914, West Park Palace is a former Edwardian cinema. As well as operating as a cinema for 40 years, the building also spent some time in use as a social club, a snooker hall and sports bar, before being left vacant in 2007.
Giroscope buys and renovates empty properties in order to let them out to social enterprises, community organisations, and people in need of affordable housing. For their next project, they plan to bring West Park Palace back into use as a multi-purpose venue with a bar and café; an area for independent films, theatre and music; and workshops, events and office space. The building will also be used as a base for employability skills training, allowing people to engage with locally based Further Education providers and organisations delivering courses and skills development.
The West Park Palace project forms part of Giroscope’s wider vision to create a flexible and localised business infrastructure, aimed at supporting and stimulating employment and social growth in the area. The site will provide a place for businesses to produce, show, and perform their work. Giroscope also continues to develop their existing AHF-supported project at the former St Matthew’s Church will become a home for start-ups, community businesses, social enterprises and sole traders.
The AHF grant will fund a condition survey, business and fundraising planning, community engagement and consultation, and help to outline costs.
Images: Exterior and interior of The Clipper in Weymouth, Dorset.
The Clipper, Weymouth, Dorset, England
Weymouth Area Development Trust CIC
Dating back to around 1780, Numbers 81 and 82 St Thomas Street in Weymouth were originally built as separate Georgian houses. In later years, they were transformed into the frontage and entrance to a Jubilee Hall for Queen Victoria, but this hall was demolished in 1989 to make way for a shopping centre. The buildings were subsequently converted into a public house, The Clipper, which closed in 2014 and has remained vacant since.
Weymouth Area Development Trust (WADT) is a community-led organisation working on projects that benefit the public through urban or rural regeneration, particularly in areas of social and economic deprivation. In partnership with Dorset County Council, WADT has identified The Clipper as an appropriate venue to transform into a Coastal Business and Enterprise Centre.
A recent survey highlighted limited access to employment and skills training as the most significant issue impacting communities in Weymouth. The proposed Business and Enterprise Centre would address this issue by providing the community with space for co-working, micro enterprises and start-ups, as well as skills training delivered in partnership with Weymouth College and Dorset Growth Hub. In addition, the Centre plans to include exhibition and event space, a community kitchen, and accommodation/studio space.
The AHF grant will fund a viability appraisal of the building, alongside specialist heritage and professional input to ensure that the project is sustainable.
Both of these grants were awarded as part of our Transforming Places through Heritage programme, which supports projects that will contribute to the transformation of high streets and town centres in England, helping them become thriving places, strengthening local communities, and encouraging local economies to prosper. The programme is made possible with funding from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.