The team at intoBodmin are celebrating having bought The Old Library at the top of Bodmin’s high street, which has been their base since 2017.
The sale, which was confirmed on 4th July 2023, is the result of having achieved a total £640k of grant funding which the Community Interest Company will also use to fully refurbish the Grade II listed John Passmore Edwards library.
The Old Library is home to a vibrant community hub run by intoBodmin. The building hosts a community café, shared co-working spaces and rooms for hire, plus a licensed venue with a varied events programme. However, the historic building is in poor condition and expensive to run: over the last year, it has cost £120 a day to cover the building’s basic overheads.
Initially raising £115k from Arts Council England, and £60k from Cornwall Council’s proposed devolution deal with the UK Government to purchase the building from Cornwall Council, the intoBodmin team have been awarded a further £465k from the Architectural Heritage Fund, Arts Council England, and the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. Cornwall Council has been chosen by Government as a Lead Authority for the fund and is responsible for monitoring the progress of projects funded through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The fund has provided £180k for the Old Library project.
Director Fin Irwin said: "From the very beginning, our ambition has always been to purchase The Old Library to secure it as a community space - and owning the building means we've been able to win this vital funding to invest in the library and give it a more secure future. It will also allow more of our income to be re-invested into the our community work, rather than paying high running costs.”
Nema Hart, Arts Council England, South West, Director of Place, Economy and Partnerships, says: “It’s fantastic to be supporting the development of The Old Library, a building with a rich legacy, for the creative community and residents of Bodmin. At the Arts Council, we value access to shared spaces for learning, creative engagement, and collaboration – so we’re pleased to see The Old Library in the capable hands of intoBodmin, who are committed to transforming it into a venue that’s open to all, and fit for the future. We can’t wait to see the positive impacts it will bring.”
Repairs and upgrades will focus on making the building warm, watertight and welcoming, as well as reducing its carbon footprint and running costs. The overall facilities will be improved, and energy efficient lighting and heating systems installed - including solar panels donated by Clean Earth.
The building will close for up to 6 months while the refurbishment breathes new life into the iconic building in Bodmin’s town centre. The intoBodmin team and their programme of community activity will be moving to Shop 14 on Fore Street while the redevelopment takes place.
Fin added: "This purchase and renovation is such a great opportunity for Bodmin and our organisation. In 1897, the great Cornish philanthropist John Passmore Edwards opened this building as a free library for the people of Bodmin. 126 years later and intoBodmin are able to repair the fabric of the building and make it a community resource fit for the 21st century. We are proud to be able to build on the legacy of The Old Library building, and excited to share this space with all the wonderful people who use it and those who will discover it in the future.”
intoBodmin is an arts and community organisation, which was set up in 2017 by Bodmin local Fin Irwin when the town’s public library provision was moved to a new location and the Public Rooms were sold - all of which threatened to leave Bodmin without a home for culture and the arts. After taking on The Old Library’s lease from Cornwall Council, over the past five years intoBodmin have developed the building into the thriving community hub and arts venue it is today.
Tash Arnold, Co-Director and project lead for the purchase and refurbishment, added: “We are so grateful to all our funders - particularly the Architectural Heritage Fund, which has supported our project from the very beginning. Many different teams at Cornwall Council supported and advised us throughout the process, as well as our local councillor Pat Rogerson, and our local MP, Scott Mann.”
The programme of works began in July 2023 and are due to be completed in 6 months, with the building reopening in January 2024. More information about the project can be found on the intoBodmin website at https://intobodmin.co.uk/projects/theoldlibrarydevelopment/