Well, we did it. Well done to everyone. Looking at the final result of 78/80 made the whole effort worthwhile. Rather than write a self-congratulating piece – I’d prefer to do a de-brief.
We started the whole process in 1995, when Maggie my wife supplied the finances to enable the Borough Council to purchase 78/80. We have half completed the job nearly nine years later. Why did it take so long? The system of getting grants is far too long and complicated and must be made simpler and user friendly. We had spent £300k by the time we had put in the grant proposal. This is because you have to put in detailed architectural and conservation plans, together with a mass of financial figures. The accountants and the architects, structural engineers and experts don’t do this work for nothing of course. This in itself is far out of the reach of most small groups, like The Friends. How can such groups of good citizens expect to clamber over these hurdles when all they are trying to do is something worthwhile in their community? All I can say is it’s a good job the Trustees had the staying power to last the course. OK, in fairness you do get your money back if the scheme is given approval, but there is no guarantee that this will happen.
Does this sound rather negative well I’ll try to be more positive and let us look at the good things that have happened in those nine years. Firstly and foremost, Les Patterson, the Trust’s secretary, did a magnificent job for the Trustees. Particularly mention should be given to the builders who were wonderful; anyone who has seen the videos done by i2i will verify this, Sylvia, the Curator has at long last got something to curate and her work over the last period has been invaluable. Finally, of course, The Friends of 78, probably the most positive thing to have come of the decade.
What’s next? Well for the Trustees it’s back to work. We need to raise the finances to complete the work at 82 Derngate to make the project complete. This time I promise it won’t take nine years!
For The Friends, you have played a major part in the restoration – now we need you to help us look after the place. Like me, your only reward will be the smiling faces of the visitors. I think we can settle for that, don’t you?
First published in December 2003 in The Friends of 78 Derngate Newsletter Issue 27.
Author: Keith Barwell
Transcribed 2018: Barbara Floyer