As all that follow us may have noticed, we’ve been somewhat silent since our last online zoom meet on the 17th of February. This does not mean the charity has not been in our hearts and minds, on the contrary; we’ve been ticking away hosting meetings, attending a plethora of educational webinars, reading local cultural reports, filing through assigned tasks from The Social Enterprise Academy to learn more about running a business, and networking with local and more far-a-field heritage organisations. This is the first time any of us has come into this close proximity to this kind of project and we are in a continual state of learning, which sometimes feels very scary but also incredibly empowering. Day by day, I can feel us triumphing a new bit of understanding.
Phil, unfortunately for us, left Dumfries to return to America where he is using extreme passionate and capability to teach languages and focus on his fiction writing. Being so far away physically from the project has led him to dis-attach somewhat from the group. Nether-the-less, it is in his vision that we are proceeding, and he has been on hand to help steer us.
Felix and Emily are now mid-way through their Steps to Sustainability course by The Social Enterprise Academy. This has really helped unlock the potential for the convent as the they rubix-cube all the components of the business together. Thanks to the incredible response to the vision quest, they have a sound understanding of what the different communities in the area are looking for in a community centre. So far the building has been portioned off to hold: a restaurant, a hostel, student accommodation, a museum, a bookshop / library, an art gallery, studio spaces, classrooms, facilities for sport, multifunctional event space, and of course garden space for community growing in permaculture, food-growing, medicinal and dye plants, and ornamental gardens. With in this, is the idea that we can host an abundance of interesting events, conferences, exhibitions, residencies, rooms-for-hire, classes, spiritual groups, weddings, after school activities, and regular community events.
We talk a lot about creating many levels of access, to be a successful community centre it must serve all members of the community. Of course, this means that we’d expect different members of the varying communities to take ownership and create their own projects and spaces with in UnConventional. The different routes of access drawing people to a common centre could then mean they find something, or someone, they’d not have usually been drawn to, thus generating a place of sharing and learning. Closing up the dividing cracks in society is important now as a common unity is what is needed to shift prospective futures into more positive outcomes.
We will be striving to make this building as energy efficient as possible. There is currently good funding for renewable energy. But we also think we have a good opportunity to open the building up as a kind of renewable energy school. Through Interface (a portal of connecting business to academia) and the conservation courses held at The Crichton, we think we can set up UnConventional as a place of research connecting renewable energy to old buildings. As you can see! This is a very large scale building and we expect we’l section it off bit by bit for development and renewal.
So now, it is our mission to research each business route to find out how viable it will be. This means contacting different organisations and obtaining facts and figures. We are in the current throes of designing a research plan, who and where we can look for the types of information we need. This means visiting some of the local community centres and schools so we can understand how we can work symbiotically with them, as well as other organisations further afield who’ve successfully implemented hostels or community kitchens to their full effect.
It is with anticipation we have our first pitch to the Social Enterprise Academy mid-June to release our first pocket of funding of £10,000. This is to subsidize our validity study as well as hopefully contribute to our first building survey.
In our last public meeting, both Emily and Felix talked about some of the smaller projects they could do in the nearer futures. Emily is currently looking for small pots of funding to help aid a publication in response to the vision quest. And Felix will be rolling out some Deep Green Spaces garden opportunities at the start of summer. We will keep everyone updated as these projects build traction.
In the meantime, we’ve assembled a mood-board to represent the charity and the kind of things we are looking forward to hosting. We’ve used as many of our own images in this as we can, not only does this show we have experiences catering some of the activities asked for; but let’s face it. It looks a lot better then stock images.
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions or ideas you would like to discuss with us. We will be working towards another community meet up soon, and hopefully in the not too distant future, one which we can host in the convent grounds with food and drink.