Friday, December 6 saw a combined Christmas Market and formal opening ceremony at the now-completed Ivinghoe Old School Community Hub. Nobody passing through Ivinghoe could have failed to notice the sparkle of silvery solar lights lighting up the old school building, nor the crowds of local people enjoying toasted cinnamon pretzels, roasting chestnuts, and the carol singing from local choirs.
The event marked the conclusion of two years’ hard work by a community spirited ‘not for private profit’ of group of community volunteers which has rescued, restoring and refurbished the building as an asset for local people to use and enjoy.
Among the speakers at the opening was Carol Tarrant, chair of the present trustees and the main instigator of the community project. She explained how, faced with the sale of the old school building, which had slid into disuse after its previous users withdrew from the facility, a ‘Save Old School’ action group to spring up and form a committee of activists seeking a Community Asset Transfer of the building for use of the community.
A ‘Social Need’ case was made to Bucks County Council and, in December 2012, a 25-year lease at a peppercorn rent was awarded to the group, along with responsibility for restoration and refurbishment.
There followed applications to six different grant funders for refurbishment funding. Altogether, grants totalling £96,000 were awarded by Bucks Community Foundation, Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC)’s Community Chest, the Big Lottery Village SOS (which gave nearly £50,000), Comic Relief, Vital Villages and Awards for All.
Between them, the grants covered the majority of what was needed. The works were undertaken by Furlong and Higgs Builders, with the community rolling up its sleeves to complete the work themselves when the grant money had been exhausted.
“Community members restored the bottom two metres of the entire building themselves,” said Carol.
The grand opening also saw plaques presented by Hazel Hedges on behalf of Bucks Community Foundation in recognition of a grant of £5000 towards roof insulation, and by Councillor Avril Davies representing AVDC’s Community Chest grant of £19,500 for electrical work.
Local vicar Tracey Doyle encouraged the community to make the most of the building before cutting the red ribbon and leading everyone inside, where more market stalls – additional to those outside – could be found, along with entertainment from the Ivinghoe Handbell Ringers, Brookmead School Choir, the Beacon Community Choir, and the Beacon Singing Ensemble.
CuriosiTEA Rooms, run by Hayley Wesley, and which was the first part of the Hub to open back in June 2013, provided the refreshments on the night, including bacon baguettes and mulled wine.
The old school architecture, with its gothic windows, high fireplaces and scrubbed floorboards, offers an elegant venue for parties, wakes, and other events, with flat access, and a convenient location at the heart of the village next to Ivinghoe Lawn and the children’s play area. For more details of what it has to offer, visit the website at www.ivinghoeoldschool.com.
> See more news from Ivinghoe & Pitstone in Dave Sivers’ column in the LBO every week.