Stourport Forward – Forging a new future for Stourport on Severn
Stourport Forward began a new chapter this month thanks to National Lottery players. It formally approved a merger with the Town Centre Forum to build a more robust organisation of the future. The move is the first step in a chain of activity funded through a Heritage Lottery Funded Resilient Heritage grant.
The £10,000 lottery bid was pulled together under the leadership of historian, Pauline Annis, Chair of Stourport Forward since 2010 and Chair of Stourport Civic Society. When Ken Harrison took over chairmanship in November 2017, he made it his priority to work with a small Steering Group, the Town Centre Forum, the Town and District Councils and begin a series of interviews and workshops with partners and local businesses. A detailed Resilience Report and Action Plan Framework has been pulled together by specialist regeneration agency, Morland Consultancy LLP and AMIOM Consulting.
Ken says “Stourport Forward is immensely grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for enabling us to undertake this exciting study, looking at how Stourport Forward can become a more resilient heritage organisation of the future. At the outset the Board were keen to explore how, in going back to the company’s regeneration roots, there may be new opportunities. The study has demonstrated the importance of Town Centre health and an integrated ‘town led’ approach. The most successful towns are demonstrating what’s special about their offer and focusing on quality and diversity, ensuring that funding is available for reinvestment in the historic buildings and spaces of the town.
Through the Resilience Study, Stourport Forward has developed a new plan to help the town to develop. Our first step has been to merge with the Town Centre Forum, to combine our efforts in pursuit of success. We are now planning to submit further bids, based on a 5 year action plan which incorporates the study findings.
I would like to acknowledge Pauline Annis’s contribution as Chair of Stourport Forward over the past 7 years, leading the organisation through difficult times and building community activity around the historic canal basins. This has been through a programme of fascinating guided Heritage Walks and Talks, Spirit of Stourport Ghost Walks, the Heritage Rooms, Explorers Education Activity in partnership with the Canal & River Trust, developing the town website (www.stourporttown.co.uk) and the restoration and running of an exhibition boat, heritage working boat, Bramble. We will be continuing to lead community work as the foundation of our new programme”.
Stourport Town Centre Forum has had a successful past in promoting initiatives to support the town centre. It was originally set up by well-known local businessman Derek Fradgeley in 1997 with the aim of co-ordinating a wide range of initiatives such as a marketing and promotional strategy, funding initiatives, consultation with local business and lobbying for business interests. Russell Hinton has led the Forum since 2014 as well as chairing the Carnival Committee since 2015, and running successful high street jewellery business, Manton’s of Stourport. Russell says “Its time for the Forum to make a change and join Stourport Forward in forging a new future for the success of the High Street and indeed Stourport. Times have changed and people visiting Stourport are looking for an experience when they visit. There is work to be done and we believe we can do it better together.”
Additional Funding From AWM To Create a Cafe/Restaurant
Stourport Forward is a not for profit company limited by guarantee, which was established in 2004 to deliver the Market Towns Initiative regeneration programme, funded by Advantage West Midlands. Since the completion of the programme in 2009 Stourport Forward has continued to develop and deliver projects for the benefit of Stourport, including developing projects to build on the award winning “Restoration of Stourport Canal Basins” project to continue to develop Stourport Canal Basins as a heritage tourism destination and other projects for the benefit of the town.
In July 2008, Advantage West Midlands awarded a grant of £500,000 to Stourport Forward to create a Cafe/Restaurant and Heritage Room at Stourport Basins. Work began in November 2008 and was completed in March 2009. The cafe was leased and opened as The Windlass Cafe/ Restaurant in April 2009. The grant awarded by Advantage West Midlands included the cost, to Stourport Forward, of purchasing a 40 year lease for the building. The cafe/restaurant and office located above it are leased to tenants and the funds generated help to sustain the work of Stourport Forward.
Following the opening of the Cafe/restaurant in April 2009 Stourport Forward negotiated with AWM to use the under spend from the grant to purchase a 10 year lease for another heritage Room, The Old Ticket Office, located at York Street and to furnish both rooms with artefacts and interpretation. The rooms were developed in partnership with British Waterways, Bewdley Museum and Stourport Civic Society and were launched in March 2010. The Tontine Stable Heritage Room and The Old Ticket Office Heritage Room are opened at events and at agreed times and dates during the visitor season. Group or individual viewings may also be available by advance request, where possible.
The remainder of the under-spend was used to fund the development of an annual events programme, delivered by volunteers and a school visit project. The events programme was launched in May 2009 with a Heritage Weekend . The School visit project was launched in September 2010.
With the help and support of around 30 volunteers (including Board members) the work of Stourport Forward has continued to grow. There are now three groups of volunteers and several volunteers who support the work of Stourport Forward in other ways, for example, restocking leaflet stands. The three volunteer groups are:-
- The events and activities volunteer group
- The School Visit project volunteer group
- The Bramble (canal boat restoration) volunteer group
The work of Stourport Forward continues to grow and evolve and is dependent upon the support of a strong core of volunteers. If you would like to find out more about the events and activities programme, school programme or volunteer programme please contact Eliza Botham (Manager) for further information on firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01299 822827.
Stourport Forward Ltd, 1 Severn Side, Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire, DY13 9EN