intoBodmin CIC have been awarded a £250,000 grant towards ‘The Old Library Acquisition and Redevelopment’ which will help secure it as a community building for future generations.
The Old Library, the home of intoBodmin, has been rented by the community interest company from Cornwall Council since 2017. Cornwall Council turned down bids from developers that hoped to turn the building into flats, in favour of a community organisation.
This has been fantastic for Bodmin’s arts, culture and community and intoBodmin only wish to do more to help the community thrive. Two years ago, knowing that the rent would increase annually, intoBodmin successfully applied for funding from the Architectural Heritage Fund for a ‘viability and feasibility study’ to investigate the option of the organisation purchasing the building.
Fin Irwin, founder and co-director of intoBodmin, told Bodmin Life: “We knew that our rent was going to go up every year and that when it hit the highest rents, it was going to be more challenging for us to stay afloat and by owning the building we could be more secure for the future.”
After various stages of development which included the involvement of architects and serious considerations of how to raise funds, their next step was to enter a ‘transformation’ stage which coincided with the Arts Council’s announcement of the Capital Investment Programme to help, '66 cultural organisations across the county transform their buildings and equipment so they can operate safely post-pandemic…’.
Only six organisations in the whole of the South West were awarded funding, and they chose Bodmin! intoBodmin were awarded £250,000 to ‘bring life to Bodmin’s Old Library, a key cultural and community asset’. Fin was particularly excited about this aspect, adding: “That’s saying a lot for Bodmin, that they can see that there is potential here and that there is need, and that what we are going to do is going to secure a creative space for the future.”
So, what will the money be used for?
The £250,000 will be going towards the refurbishment and acquisition of The Old Library. Fin described how ‘the windows are rotting, the walls are leaking and there is very little insulation’. He explained how the building is currently very inefficient and that it costs the organisation a significant amount of money every year to heat. The investment will improve the building’s environmental impact, therefore part of the money will be ensuring that the building is more energy efficient and environmentally friendly.
The intoBodmin team hopes to employ local tradesmen where possible and the repairs will include renovations to the fabric of the building, upgrades to the electrics and services and restoring some of the heritage aspects of the building. The team are also hoping to make the building more accessible with new infrastructure to make it easier to access the building out of hours for room hire and hot desking.
There will also be better signage and visibility from the outside to help the space seem more appealing and welcoming to the community. Don’t worry if you’re into traditional buildings! The Old Library is Grade 2 listed, therefore this status, bestowed by Historic England will protect its valued significance throughout the refurbishment.
Finally, the money will also go towards purchasing the building. The total cost of the refurbishment and building acquisition is expected to come to nearly £600,000 - and so the fundraising continues!
Why is this such great news?
The wonderful thing about intoBodmin’s refurbishment and acquisition of The Old Library is securing the building as a community hub for future generations.
Fin said: “The £600,000: that money is going to make the building safe and stop it from falling down, as well as keeping it in community ownership. We’re a community interest company. If for any reason our business should fold, then we have an asset lock which means it would transfer to another community business. There is no way that this building could ever be anything other than an asset for the community.”
The Old Library was first opened on the 24th of May, 1897 and remained a library until 2017 when it was taken on by intoBodmin CIC. John Passmore Edwards, whose bust is displayed in the entrance hall of The Old Library, was the philanthropist that paid for the library in the 1800’s and Fin says the team hope ‘to continue that legacy in a different way but to ensure it’s still about creating access to culture’, adding: “He did it through books and we’re doing it through art and theatre and music and food and gardening.”