Allenton Big Build is an ambitious partnership between the small St Martin’s congregation, Allenton Big Local and around 50 local organisations and contractors. A vision to extend and refurbish the beleaguered Methodist church building into a shared church and community centre was developed after Allenton, identified as one of UK’s 150 most deprived areas, received ‘Big Local’ lottery funding.
Mairi Radcliffe, Lay Pastor of St Martin’s, has been key to the success of Allenton Big Build, which has achieved the incredible feat of successfully undertaking a £1million building redevelopment and extension project … for £220,000.
Mairi Radcliffe, said: “Twenty years ago, vandalism directed at the church was so persistent that most windows were bricked up. The development of St Martin’s Church and Community Centre has completely changed that. We’ve been developing this community and building love and kindness between local people, while the community has developed this building with untold generosity and goodwill. Now our real work begins.”
With a local social housing company providing materials and services at cost or free, and hundreds of local residents, contractors, students, and church members volunteering 10,000 hours of skills and labour, the main building work was completed and opened by HRH Princess Anne in July 2019.
But, from the beginning, this project was not about bricks and mortar. The problems existing in Allenton were huge and the most important objective was to use the project for capacity building, skills development, and engagement of the community as a whole. Along the way, volunteers, the church and the community have gained new skills, increased confidence and real-life transformations.
When lockdown arrived in March 2020, St Martin’s Church and Community Centre was perfectly placed, with a growing congregation, partnerships with others, and engaged and committed local residents, to be the centre of support, kindness and care for Allenton during the unprecedented challenges of the Pandemic.