It's been all systems go at the Old Library recently !

January 14 2019
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It has been all systems go down at the Old Library this month.

Firstly planning permission has been sought for the building of a playground with equipment, the building of a disabled toilet, a store room, a buggy park, with access ramps. This is covered elsewhere in this publication under planning applications. The its reference number is 18/04017/F and you can make a comment at https://www.planningonline.bristol.gov.uk

A Craft Fair and the annual Christmas Party were held with both events proving to be very successful making profits of £350 and £600 respectively. The Christmas Party attracted over 200 local residents to the building.

In addition to this the Old Library’s Annual General Meeting was held. Here is the text of Chair Emily Shimell’s report to the meeting:

Since incorporating SL&P in 2016, the key focus has been the transformation of the Eastville Library. After the first year of operation, where much of the groundwork was done to obtain the building, find people to join in the vision and start mapping out plans, processes and ideas to take forwards, the 2nd year of operation has been much more heavily focused on developing the organisations’ structure and putting in place a much more solid foundation for the space to grow and be sustainable in the long run.

With the departure of one of the initial directors towards the end of 2017, the decision was made to widen the director pool, not just to replace the secretary role but to expand the directorship with additional expertise, enthusiasm and ideas. After interest from a wide range of individuals, both current volunteers and new ones, the successful enrolling of 4 new directors took place in early 2018, making for a far more robust and strategic team to help move SL&P into its next vital stage.

Alongside an expanded SL&P director team, the Old Library’s team of volunteers has continued to change and expand, with new volunteers of all ages and backgrounds coming on board to help in all elements of the project. Alongside the cafe, run by two fantastic teams of volunteers on Wednesdays and Fridays, the Garden team has taken on a new lead volunteer, Becky Smith, and the events team has welcomed new members to help fundraise and organise the fantastic range of events throughout the year. It’s also super exciting that the Friday cafe team are now confident enough and able to offer tasty homecooked hot food on the menu for lunch, provided by Maria and Evelyn - and everything i’ve tried has all been delicious!

This year, and amongst everything else, Lucy took on the epic challenge of managing the hire processes and dealing with the ongoing influx of requests for hiring the Old Library - a highly successful and vital income stream for our community project, but a role which we’ve learnt requires far more attention than was first expected when starting up the Old Library! To take this on almost straight after becoming a part of the team was a really big ask and something Lucy did in a very admirable and organised way, and I think this really does deserve a big thank you from us all. This role is now being managed as a more structured and outsourced role by long term team member, Tamsin, who I know will ensure this vital part of the Old Library is run like clockwork and continues to be a solid and extremely well managed income stream for our space.

The transformation of the Old Library building has continued with one of the most recent noticeable additions being the internal boxing to conceal the heating pipework. It looks fantastic, but also has vastly improved the safety in the building too - a vital improvement especially with the number of activities and events that now take place here for young children to enjoy.

We have also seen some fantastic additions to the Old Library garden, including the kid’s outdoor kitchen and Jungle den, designed and installed by Greenplay Project, and our beautiful larch picnic benches under the trees. The planning permission for the next stages of the outdoor space is currently being sought, and we’re looking forward to adding in exciting new adventure play equipment in the new year, along with the building extension for an accessible toilet and much needed secure storage space.

On September 15th, we held our two year anniversary party, a hugely successful community event and fundraiser, with a BBQ, bar, live music, games and lots of crafts and activities for local people to come and enjoy. We estimated that we had around 350 come and celebrate the Old Library on that day, whilst raising a wonderful £1500 for the space too. This has become an highly anticipated annual event, so keep the weekend free in your diaries next year for an even bigger and better celebration of everything we have all achieved together. Our other large community event was our Christmas Party, which again couldn’t have gone down better. The comments have been fantastic, especially with the local Vineyard Church carol singers, the tasty mulled wine, and our special visit from Santa Claus himself!

Aside from these two large community events, this year we ran our first ever Jumble Sale and will be again running our Christmas Craft Fair. We have built up a great calendar of activities and events, with ongoing weekly and monthly groups both run by volunteers and private hirers. The Stay & Play group on a Tuesday, run by local parents, continues to grow and welcome lots of new families, and Rodney’s Singing & Story Time on Wednesdays mornings was recognised as one of the most successful community groups in the local area. Maria and Hannah have also recently started up a new after school club on Mondays which is already receiving a fantastic positive response, and the Bristol Umbrella Singers continue to meet on a Friday morning, a choir for people with Learning Disabilities which brings a fantastic buzz and positive vibe to the space every week.

Amongst many other activities, including our community Board Games evening and Circle Dancing sessions, Jim started up the Old Library Film Club, showing some fantastic films on Friday evenings, and has worked with Emily to ensure our pub quiz nights are now run every month, which last month filled every table and raises around 60 every quiz. We also hosted our first ever live music night, “Punks Not Dead”, which showed me a rather different side to Jim as frontman to his band “the Mutoids”, and helped raise even more funds for the space, along with putting on yet another fantastic & entertaining evening for residents in the area.

The feedback from private hirers is always positive too - the space feels warm and welcoming from the moment you walk in, is a breath of fresh air and for some, a hugely welcomed space for them to get out and about from their homes. With everything from birthday parties, one off talks and discussions and even a theatre production of “Alice in the Cuckoos Nest”, it’s always wonderful to hear that people appreciate the time, love and effort that has gone into transforming the Old Library by all of those involved.

The Old Library has developed a strong following of local people and those further afield, with a well recognised brand both online and offline, that now reaches not just into the local Horfield and Lockleaze Voice paper but within Bishopston Matters, Bristol 247, BBC Bristol and more.We have been featured on the radio and have met with other community groups in Bristol and from across the UK, including a team from Newport who came to visit the Old Library in June, to share our ideas, story and help inspire others to transform community assets in their neighbourhoods. We have over 1000 followers now on Facebook, over 400 people in our mailing list, strong links with local schools and groups who help to promote activities and fundraising events, and even won the award for best Community Project in the Horfield and Lockleaze Voice awards in September 2017.

Aside from the Old Library, in the past year the SL&P group has run a number of activities on South Purdown, to help drive forward the aims of protecting and promoting the green space. We’ve held wildlife and education walks including wild food events and bat walks, and run litter picks and a maintenance day to trim brambles and help improve the pathways for school children. South Purdown is also now listed as a case study on the Magnificent Meadows website, to give other communities ideas of what they can do to help protect and preserve their greenspaces too.

As a volunteer run project, the volunteers are the backbone to everything here, and it has been so inspiring to meet, spend time with and get to know so many people from the local area and beyond who want to make this community a better place for us all.  The team has grown from three of us initially to a fantastic group of individuals of all ages, abilities and backgrounds, those who volunteer their time in the Old Library building regularly during the week, the keyholders, those who put in time in the background to deal with events, hirers, the rota, admin, finances and promotion, the leaflet deliverers, those who provide activities in their spare time to share their skills with the community and raise money for the space and community, and all of those ad-hoc volunteers who make our larger events possible.

We’ve even also had the likes of our local Police Team and the GoodGym who have joined in the transformation.

I just want to say a huge huge thank you to every single person who has given their time, skills, money, materials and experience this year, all the amazing volunteers, and all the users and hirers too, and I’m sure I speak for the directors, the entire team and the wider community too that we are so proud to see what you and this community have all achieved here this year and throughout the journey of SL&P so far. WHAT A YEAR!