Inspiring Stuff

Devonport Guildhall and Devonport Library

We really enjoyed meeting Ed from Real Ideas Organisation (RIO), based at Devonport Guildhall. Ed told us the story of how RIO regenerated the Guildhall from a dilapidated and dangerous building into a performance space, venue, classroom, café/restaurant, wedding venue, and space that recruits and trains young people.

Devonport Guildhall is inspirational for our project because RIO has a very strong focus on social enterprise and working for the benefit of the local environment and its’ community. The project also involved a lot of work to bring the Guildhall from an empty historic building to a top quality asset.

Yeovil Foyer Federation

The Yeovil Foyer Federation was one of the first buildings the project visited back in Spring 2011. The Foyer Federation is an organisation that provides safe affordable accommodation and support to vulnerable young people. The building is a closed and deconsecrated church which was renervated in the late twentieth century, and houses office space, computer rooms, and recreational space. Onto the original building a modern extension has been built which houses the accommodation.

Yeovil Foyer Federation is inspirational for our project because it’s an effective new use for a historic church local to our project. They are also inspirational in terms of the support and empowerment given to young people through their projects. We’re keen to build a relationship with the Yeovil Foyer Federation in terms of qualifications and accreditations that young volunteers can gain through working on the project.


Circomedia in St Paul’s church, Bristol was the Churches Conservation Trust’s first regeneration project, turning a neglected and forgotten grade 1 listed church into a circus school and performance venue.

Circomedia is a huge inspiration for our project in terms of providing a loose model for how the New Saints might work with the Churches Conservation Trust in future to maintain the new uses of All Saints church. We also find Circomedia an inspiration for the way the regeneration of the church has helped kickstart the regeneration of the surrounding area, bringing professional artists and performers, and tourists into the area and boosting the economy. Circomedia’s dedication to the local community is another inspirational facet of the project.

Rook Lane Chapel

Rook Lane Chapel in Frome is just really cool. It’s a disused chapel which has been regenerated and re-opened as a community arts centre with exhibition space, performances and workshops, as well as spaces available for hire for events such as weddings. The building also has a modern extension housing service areas for the arts venue and office space for the architects that designed it!

We’ve included Rook Lane Chapel in our ‘Inspiring Stuff’ page because it’s a local project which has been successful in achieving a balance between protecting and celebrating the historic building; and using it as an asset to attract high quality performers and event usage to raise funds to maintain the building.

The Hub at Norton St Philips

The Hub is a great example of a small amount of intrusion into a living 13th century church to create a mixture of usable spaces without disrupting the image and atmosphere of the historic church. 

The Hub is inspirational for our project because it effectively shows how modern materials can create a structure that is not hidden from view, but gently displays modern architecture to a high standard within the historic building. We also like how the community are using the church building to rebuild other services such as a village shop and post office that the village recently lost. Since building the Hub, the community have seen a greatly increased use of the building.

Bromley-by-Bow Centre

The Bromley-by-Bow Centre was originally a United Reform Church in the middle of Tower Hamlets in London. The project became one of the first church regeneration projects and has grown extensively since the foundation of the project in 1984.  The BBBC aims to create a cohesive, healthy, successful and vibrant community, by offering art as a therapy, employment advice, education spaces, studios for start-up enterprises, and opportunities for young people to work to improve their community.

Whilst the situation of the BBBC is very different from ours – theirs is one of the most densely populated wards in the UK, and we’re in Langport – we can still learn and take inspiration from the project.  The BBBC is inspirational for us because the complex of buildings and spaces is entirely focussed to be beneficial to the surrounding community, and to be as accessible as possible to all members of the community. For example, the website and signs in the building are in a number of different languages.

Yarpole Shop (the Shop in the Church)

St Leonard’s in Yarpole, Herefordshire is another live church that has taken steps to diversify the way the building is used to welcome in the whole community, not just the small amount of Christian worshippers. In 2009 work was completed to build a village shop inside the building, the shop is managed by 8 volunteer committee members, and a part-time paid shop manager/post master.  The organisation has the opportunity for local people to buy shares in the project at £10 each.

This is an inspirational project for us because it shows the reuse of a church building for community use, and shows how a mix of volunteer and paid work can successfully manage the business. The New Saints are currently looking into ways that we can also offer the ability for the local community to support the project with shares.

Maastricht Domenica

A thirteenth century Dominican church in the Netherlands now houses an enormous, multi-storey, double-sided bookshelf down the centre of the nave, ancilliary shops and services in each aisle, and a café in the chancel. Previous uses of the building include worship (obviously), a warehouse, an archive, and a lost bike storage unit.

The Selexyz Bookshop in the Netherlands is obviously of a very different scale to what we could achieve in All Saints Langport, because the building we’re starting with isn’t quite as big. The innovative mixture of new uses, use of the height of the building, and sensitive installation of modern features are all definitely things we can learn from and aspire to recreate at our project.

Square Chapel

Square Chapel in Halifax is a performance venue presenting theatre, live music, comedy and performance inside a historic chapel. The run down building was bought in 1988 for £25 by six local theatre lovers, despite being grade II* listed, the building was in a very bad state of repair

The process that the project went through to create such a venue is definitely inspirational. When funds were tight to develop the new arts community centre, the project invited audience members to a unique concert where they sat in the dark, wore hard hats to fend off falling plaster and blankets to combat the cold breeze through broken windows and lack of heating. We’ve already taken elements of this as inspiration by inviting cinema night audiences to bring sleeping bags and cushions!

All Souls Community Centre, Bolton

The All Souls Community Centre in Bolton is another Churches Conservation Trust project that the New Saints are using as inspiration. In this case, their project is at the stage where they are about to break grounds on the thoroughly modern community centre to be built inside the shell of the historic church, as well as the conservation and repair work needed on the existing building.

The inspiration we can gain from this project is how to work in partnerships during the building works phase, and ways to install attractive modern architectural designs into a historic church building which accentuates the heritage offer, rather than detracting from it.

The Station, Bristol

The Station in Bristol is a brand new space in central Bristol, using the old Fire Station Building for a giant youth hub, along with professional services for young people, and a high quality arts experience.  The building includes a performance space (which can be a 250-seat theatre or a 600 capacity concert venue), dance studio, conference space, youth café, music practice rooms, a recording studio and internet radio room.

We did some work early on with The Station, whilst it was still in its building phase, to share ideas about youth empowerment and engaging ways in which young people could evaluate themselves and the impact the project has/will have on them.  The project is inspirational for us because of the way they forefronted young peoples’ opinions during the design and appraisal stages, and their very mixed set of uses for the building, ensuring a constant use and value for the new building.

LSO St Luke’s and Union Chapel

These two church buildings in London are famous for being regenerated into very high quality music venues, utilising the theatrescape that is inherent in church buildings and superior acoustics that were originally designed to emphasise religious music and speech.

They give us inspiration because they’re both very good examples of artists and audiences choosing to use quirky, unusual performance spaces for special concerts and events. I think we can bank on people wanting to use All Saints Langport (with whatever new uses it might have), purely because they wouldn’t get a similar experience anywhere else.

Lumen URC

Lumen URC is another living church that took drastic steps to ensure it kept up with twenty first century life. The striking re-design of the interior allows for a traditional congregation, a small ‘sacred space’ modern interpretation of a chapel, and a café with kitchen at the west end. The building diversifies it’s customer base by also creating two community meeting rooms, a garden and a gallery space.

We can use Lumen URC for inspiration because of the sensitive way it has introduced modern spaces and diverse uses for the building, without taking anything away from the sacred and special atmosphere the building has. The café at Lumen also works with local young people to offer jobs and volunteering opportunities.

St Mary’s Heritage Centre

The St Mary’s Heritage Centre in Gateshead is a space where library, arts and heritage can all be accessible. It is a grade 1 listed building which was saved from a very gloomy interior where someone had painted everything black when it was used for a short time as a theatre. The regeneration cost £1.2million which came from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the European Regional Development fund.

The St Mary’s Heritage Centre is one of our inspirational projects because it mixes very modern artistic and creative uses with good implementation of historic interpretation, including a facility for people living near to the building to explore their family history, and links to the building. The historic interpretation at the church looks at the wider environment and the history of Gateshead, as well as focussing on the history of the building. We hope to duplicate this sort of holistic approach to interpretation at All Saints.

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