The Old Vestry is a detached building within the boundary of St Mary’s Church. In recent decades it has been used as an office for the homeless charity Huggard and is presently occupied by Women Seeking Sanctuary Advocacy Group who use if for three half-day sessions a week. Whilst the building received some substantial work when Huggard occupied the building, it is in need of some minor works. We are keen to unlock the potential of the building, and for it to become a place which benefits the wider community.
Our proposal for what we call The Hearth is to redesign the interior of the building into two main areas: a large, open kitchen with various cooking stations, and a dining/meeting area so that the building can become a place of hospitality and encounter, and be a safe, nurturing environment where the following and other needs and issues can be addressed:
The Hearth will be a place where children and adults can learn and share skills for healthy living through cookery courses and gardening, with particular emphasis on eating well on a limited budget, and addressing the issue of Food Poverty. The large kitchen with various cooking stations and large dining area will foster community cohesion and shared hospitality, and reduce isolation.
As an environmentally sustainable building it will provide a means through which people can learn more about sustainable living, and grow in sensitivity to the natural environment of which we are a part, providing opportunities for families to learn about energy efficiency, recycling, basic domestic management, exploring ways in which inner city living can be green living, whilst helping people on a limited budget or who are living in fuel poverty to save money on fuel bills and other aspects of living.
A Place of Learning
A place where parents and families can be supported in their own learning and discover ways to support their children in their learning at home. Some of these would be 'soft courses' to give parents a positive view of learning, some would be designed to support the development of basic skills and others designed to support employment prospects, perhaps even emerging into social enterprises.
A suitable venue for homework clubs and other after school clubs, such as cookery, gardening, music, art and craft, and a nurturing environment to provide parenting courses and other courses where parents work alongside their children.
A hub of information, learning and engagement with the provision of a small library of books, magazines and leaflets pointing people to relevant support. It will be a place of encounter between parents and community partners and so help to build up trusting relationships in a safe and nurturing environment.
Care and Support
The Hearth will provide a comfortable and safe environment for counselling, mentoring and small group sessions to develop emotional literacy and mental health well-being. It will serves as a place of encounter for organisations working with vulnerable or disadvantaged people, offering them a safe and homely space for their work and for organising related activities.
A place of encounter where, within a homely and intimate environment, relationships can be fostered through cooking together and sharing a meal.
A place which will be a home to fostering relationships between people of all generations through shared activities such as storytelling, reading together, music, gardening, and cooking.
A shared place where people of different cultures, backgrounds, religions and beliefs can feel at home and encounter one another in order to break down boundaries and stereotypes, and find a common ground to build relationships through conversation, shared meals and hospitality.
This nurturing space will offer a welcome to all, and activities within The Hearth will reflect the rich diversity of the community, representing different faiths, and where people can grow in understanding and respect of one another so that community life is strengthened.
It will be a place where those seeking asylum and refuge can feel at home, enabling them to integrate into their community and where others can discover and understand their story.
A place where those living in an area of social deprivation and - in many cases – with poor accommodation, can enjoy shared meals and hospitality with 'home comforts’ and find a safe and supportive, clean and comfortable environment and so offer hospitality to others. We also want to equip families and individuals to grow in confidence to be able to share the gifts of hospitality, openness and welcome in their own homes too.
A place with a table around which all are welcome; a natural place for parents to gather, where conversations begun at the school gate can continue, and offering a place where the school can engage with families and individuals. It may also provide valuable opportunities for families to explore the importance of 'faith in the home' through prayer, family activities and cooking.