It was at this point, in November 2018, that Circus Eruption contacted the Wales Support Officer after being referred by Swansea City Council’s Economic Development team. The initial request was to explore the potential to apply for funding, but during the course of the first conversation it became clear that the charity’s project coordinator needed more fundamental support to discuss their vision and whether they were right to embark upon such a venture. This uncertainty is common among organisations and individuals with little or no experience of capital redevelopment projects, let alone pertaining to listed buildings. Since first contact, the Support Officer has regularly been on hand to listen to concerns, offer advice and suggest possible ways forward including providing details of expert advisors. The charity rightfully needed to establish the viability of the project to be confident the proposed purchase would benefit its charitable aims, its existing clients and the local community. It was also an opportunity to explore if this project could provide a stable foundation for the charity to produce future strategic and operational growth.
A Project Viability Grant was awarded which enabled the charity to test the viability of the proposal by commissioning professional advisors (conservation accredited architect and structural engineer) to complete condition, asbestos and bat surveys on the building as well as additional hours for the charity's project coordinator and further consultation with the local community. As a result of this work the charity gained confidence and was provided with assurances to purchase the site. A sale price was agreed with the vendor based on an independent valuation and the charity acquired the freehold of the former Church in April 2019.
A Project Development Grant awarded in September 2019 enabled the charity to develop its plans by commissioning further professional advice that included completing detailed designs, obtaining listed building consent and planning permission and the preparation tender documents.
In March 2020 a capital grant was awarded to assist the charity realise its vision for the former church. Permission to start will be granted once all match funding has been secured. Using the remainder of an interest-free loan from a private benefactor and a grant from the Moondance Foundation, Circus Eruption completed emergency works to the roof and tackling dry rot.
Once the capital works are complete, the former church will become Circus Eruption’s headquarters from where it will deliver its youth-focused engagement work and coordinate its offsite activities. The adjoining church hall will be the focus of a second phase of works which will provide community services and facilities. Circus Eruption has benefitted from charity let opportunities in recent years but the insecurity of tenure resulted in a series of consecutive moves (four in five years), which highlighted the need for a permanent space. More fundamentally it will enable the charity to become more resilient by removing the need to rent space, expanding the range of its audiences and services, increasing its income streams and growing its reserves.
"We were totally new to heritage and the support we have received from the AHF has been foundational to our achieving a permanent base in a listed building. The timely and appropriate funding is obviously a crucial aspect but we have also benefitted hugely through guidance and connections from the Wales support officer. We're still learning and receiving support and advice, and hope our experience can help others in future too! The positive, realistic and constructive AHF approach has played a huge part in our success so far. Diolch yn fawr iawn!”
Karen Chalk - Project Coordinator, Circus Eruption