Bright ideas and sunshine: Life returns to the Old School Hall windows

We brought life back to the Old School Hall windows today with a show of the 3 main ideas we are developing in our feasibility study for the hall. Support was strong and deep for a positive and community benefitting angle to bring the Hall back in to use. Some fascinating conversations with people who showed up today, including Doug who has been living near the Hall for 65 years and was a pupil at the school in the 1950s.

The 3 ideas we presented are all based on approaches we have had from groups and businesses who are interested in occupying the building:

  • Option A: A food hub: Dedicated to food production and learning about food, including a bakery, cafe and large hall for education and events. Several small food businesses would be based in the building. Strong association to the windmill would make this a national destination as well as a local centre.
  • Option B: An education or day centre. A secure part of the building offers education or day support for people with disabilities, excluded school pupils or maybe a nursery. A large cafe takes up the rest of the building, perhaps with a direct connection to the WIndmill Park. During evenings and weekends, the school hall can be booked for events.
  • Option C: A business hub. A charitable business owns the hall and sublets part of it to a bakery/cafe, part of which can be used for community meetings and small events. The business offers ‘coworking’ or shared desk space and use of meeting rooms to local groups and charities.

We will be releasing an online form of the consultation shortly, but it was great today to meet people in person and talk through their preferences in depth. The sun shone and the snacks provided by Small Food Bakery were delicious, especially the 'Ey Up' bread made with Green's Mill flour. Thanks to Sneinton Alchemy for hosting the event, WIND for clearing up the car park before the event, the Old School Hall Community Association for providing the pagoda, table and chairs. A special shout out to Nottingham Trent University 2nd year architecture students who have been working with dOSH Chair Tom Hughes of 2hD Architects on modelling the 3 business scenarios. An all who attended and had their say, thank you for your input and support. 

Public event, 20th May: Ideas for your NEW Old School Hall

A chance for you to view and have your say on ideas for the re-use of the closed down Old School Hall Community Centre in Sneinton.

Come and try bread made with Green's Mill flour and chat to our volunteers about the future of the Hall. Featuring the visions of architecture students from Nottingham Trent University showing how the building could be restored and adapted to give it new life.

All welcome!

2-4pm Sunday 20th May 2018
At the Old School Hall, Windmill Lane, Sneinton NG2 4QB

Poster image courtesy of NTU student Charley Crane

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Building a team to deliver for Sneinton

Our last few blog posts have focussed on the history and heritage of the Old School Hall as part of Sneinton's community identity. This heritage is certainly important and underpins our drive to find a community-benefitting new use for the building.

But we can't afford to just be nostalgic, the building has to thrive as a place of enterprise and innovation in the future, offering a bright new vision as a busy, bustling place of opportunity. The team we have assembled a dOSH balances that enterprising vision with a deep set of roots in the community. We will be ready to launch our ideas publicly soon, but first we think it is important to make it clear who the ideas are coming from and what interests they represent. 

Any organisation that claims to be bringing community benefit should be prepared to prove just how deep their connections go within the area, and we thing dOSH has some solid Sneinton credentials. You can browse this network diagram online to discover the organisations involved, visit their websites and tune in to their social media accounts:

The seven organisations represented in the dOSH alliance are:

Sneinton Neighbourhood Forum: responsible for developing the Neighbourhood Plan for the future of the Sneinton area, Sneinton Neighbourhood Forum recognised the importance of the Old School Hall area and initiated the public meetings in 2016 that led to the birth of dOSH.

Old School Hall Community Association: The body responsible for managing the Old School Hall as a Community Centre. The Association successfully applied with dOSH support to have the Hall recognised as an Asset of Community Value

Sneinton Alchemy: The Community Interest Company that was set up to benefit the Sneinton neighbourhood has a successful track record of handling grant funding and completing community based project work in the area. Sneinton Alchemy CIC has emerged as the body best placed to apply for and administer grant funding related to the Hall.

WIND: With the snappiest acronym of them all WIND (Windmill Improvement for Neighbourhood Development) is the community group that has been behind many of the beautification projects in the Windmill Park. Representing residents from the immediate area and conducting litter picks, combatting anti-social behaviour and implementing planting schemes in close liaison with the Council and Green's Mill.

2hD architecture workshop: Locally based architecture company 2hD has won a number of design awards and been involved in a lot of community-based work around Sneinton. They have conducted a condition survey of the building and drawn up plans of the existing building, also coordinating the input of our structural engineer and bringing in architecture students from Nottingham Trent University to contribute through their teaching and research connections.

Notts Community Organisers: Originating in Sneinton, Notts Community Organisers are fully-qualified in their role of building community engagement and self-realisation through active public involvement. Working from the ground up, Community Organisers build consensus and network like minded community members to make change happen.

Small Food Bakery: Everyone agrees that a bakery next to the award-winning organic flour-producing windmill makes so much sense, and the area is crying out for a decent cafe. The Small Food Bakery, set up by a former Sneinton resident, takes flour from Green's Mill and turns it in to award winning food- their latest accolade being a short listing in the 2018 Good Food Awards from BBC Radio 4. Their ideas for a bakery and cafe in the Old School Building have emerged as a thread running through all the enterprise options we are considering.

Find out more via the dOSH alliance partners network diagram.

Of course, each of these organisations' representatives brings with them a great number of important connections to other organisations, who whilst not directly involved as dOSH partners have a great deal to offer to the project. So we have taken the chance to set out for you the eleven members of the dOSH committee and their involvement in other organisations, both in Sneinton and around Nottingham. Whilst we think the team is pretty strong, if you find your organisation is not represented and you think they should be, please do get in touch and get involved!

Browse the dOSH people network diagram:

Related posts:

Small Food Bakery joins the dOSH team

dOSH: We're working on it

dOSH: How did we get here

At the Hub of Sneinton's heritage stands... The Old School Hall

The Old School Hall makes up part of a heritage hub at Sneinton. In its urban setting, it is at the centre of a group of historic buildings comprising Green’s Mill, The William Booth Museum, and St Stephen’s Church and the Old Rectory. These buildings are currently disconnected, but the Hall and its car park connects to each of them them in various ways. Sneinton Neighbourhood Forum have recognised this, and the future potential of this site. The Old School Hall is also at the heart of an “At Risk” Article 4 Conservation Area.

There is a strong social heritage: This is the last surviving fragment of four Victorian institutional buildings which were a feature of the expansion of Nottingham eastwards to take in the former village of Sneinton - all were demolished by the 1970s except the Old School Hall: 

Above: 1880s map with institutional buildings highlighted

The current population of Sneinton places enormous value in the Old School Hall because of this connection, with many commenters to our petition keen not to see the last vestige of this era wiped away. Amongst the older population, many were pupils of the school, whilst their children and grand-children have used the building for scouts/brownies, community events, birthday parties and weddings. You can see this from the responses to our online petition (over 700 signatures, click on “view all reasons for signing".

Above: A small selection of the hundreds of comments received supporting the campaign to save the Old School Hall for the community.

The Old School Hall has a value in the setting of Green's Windmill and the Windmill Park. The hall would form a valuable part of the Mill masterplan because it is part of the Mill curtilage, and in fact frames the experience of approaching the Mill from the main access on Windmill Lane. Whilst the Mill Trust may need to focus its efforts on the Mill and immediate surroundings, and not have the capacity to incorporate the building into their heritage plan, this does not diminish the heritage value of the Hall. In fact it makes it more urgent than ever to recognise this value. 

The Mill itself is of course unique in being an Inner City working mill. We are working with Kimberley Bell at the Small Food Bakery to bring to the fore the exceptional qualities of the flours that are milled here, and the heritage bakery methods that Kimberley researches through the use of sourdoughs. Many facets of her (international) work are of profound importance to the future of food in the modern city and are linked to traditional working practices. She has a vision for a bakery at the Old School Hall, and we believe the provision of a bakery at the Mill in the historic building will actually become as important as the world-wide focus of George Green himself.  The Mill was one of several mills along the ridge at Windmill Lane and this is itself is a worthy part of the heritage story of the site. Recent heritage work at Sneinton Market has brought to the fore the food connections of this part of the City, and we hope to be able to add the ‘Working Lives’ researches to those of focussing on our national grain heritage to show how the history might be significant in feeding the city healthful foods in the future.   

Above: 1831 map by Staveley & Wood, showing a series of mills on Windmill Lane and the County Lunatic Asylum. In the following decades, Sneinton was linked to Nottingham by housing and institutional buildings

Heritage provides the research which leads to future stability. Our Business Plan is based on new uses which have their roots firmly in the history, with the community very much in mind.

Tom Hughes & Wendy Honeyman Smith, April 2018

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